POSTED Saturday, February 3, 2007.
MIAMI (BP)–Athletes in Action celebrated its 19th Annual Super Bowl Breakfast with Tony Dungy as the first-ever Super Bowl coach to appear in person a day before the most pivotal juncture in his coaching life.
“We usually have special team practice and meetings the day before a game,” Dungy said, “but because I’m the boss, I can set the schedule. So we just pushed everything back today to be here.”
Denver Broncos safety John Lynch was given the prestigious Bart Starr Award for his longtime excellence on and off the field, but the clear highlight of the program was the appearance by Dungy and his wife Lauren.
Dungy was greeted by multiple standing ovations from the record crowd of 2,500 people clearly appreciative for his many expressions of his faith to the worldwide media in Miami this week in advance of Super Bowl XLI.
“I’m very proud to be the first African American head coach in the Super Bowl along with my friend Lovie Smith,” Dungy said, “but more than that the fact you have two Christian coaches who show you can do things a different way.
“You have coaches who have firm Christian values, and the country and the world need to see that this week,” Dungy said. “I’m more proud of that than anything else.”
Dungy was scheduled to bring 65 of his players from the Colts team hotel to the early morning breakfast but was forced to scramble when the buses did not arrive on time. They found a few hotel vans to bring 20 players to the sold-out breakfast annually sponsored by Athletes in Action, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
During his brief speech, Dungy recalled the time he played in Super Bowl XIII in Miami with Pittsburgh, when the Steelers beat Dallas.
“Times have really changed. Back then tickets cost $30 dollars, now the hot dogs cost $30,” Dungy joked.
“But if we had won that Super Bowl and I had not put Christ in the driver’s seat, the last 28 years would had been very different for me,” Dungy said of the eternal difference.
While various media and fans have speculated that a Super Bowl victory might nudge Dungy into retirement or into the ministry, the coach noted, “I have a great platform and that is the number one thing that drives me to stay in football. People know we’re excited to be in the Super Bowl, but this is so small compared to what God has for me. We always have to keep perspective.”
In a video segment, Lovie Smith agreed with his friend Dungy that God and His Word are more important than any worldwide-publicized game.
“God has given us a perfect stage to confess our faith in Jesus Christ,” Smith said. Faith calls all men “to be strong in Christ and successful in Him. Every day I start the day with God’s Word and He is always showing something great.”
Chicago Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris represented the NFC champion Bears in person, describing what God means to him even though a mid-season injury will keep him from playing in Sunday’s game.
“Going through the injury is tough,” Harris said, “but I have to think why God had me in this position. I’m not playing the game, but I’m still affecting so many other people here.”
The Broncos’ Lynch became the fifth player Dungy has coached to win the Bart Starr Award, something the hard-hitting safety said is not a surprise.
“When Tony takes people on his team, it’s not just talent,” Lynch said. “It’s character and heart and will, and that’s what we had together when we were in Tampa,” where Dungy coached prior to his current stint in Indianapolis.
Dungy lead the breakfast crowd in a prayer, asking those who had not received Christ into their life to do so for the first time.
Baptist Press sports correspondent Art Stricklin is on site at Super Bowl XLI in Miami, filing daily reports on the spiritual side of the NFL’s championship game.