DALLAS (BP)–Former Indianapolis head coach Tony Dungy, in Dallas for an NFL kickoff luncheon, said he had no apologies for his high-profile stance in helping troubled players and his recent publicized verbal run-in with New York Jets coach Rex Ryan.
“That’s part of what I did when I was coaching — to help players be better by also helping them off the field, especially those coming from different situations from what I did when I had my dad helping me.”
Dungy, speaking at a Dallas Cowboys’ kickoff luncheon Aug. 26 at the Hilton Anatole Hotel, predicted that the hometown Dallas Cowboys would return in February as NFC Champions — thus becoming the first pro football team to play a Super Bowl in its home stadium.
But in a pre-luncheon interview with Baptist Press, Dungy didn’t shy away from the controversy with Ryan.
On a nationally broadcast radio show in mid-August, Dungy was asked by the host what he thought of Ryan’s use of several curse words in a constant pattern on a nationally televised reality show about the New York Jets.
Dungy told the host he didn’t approve of the bad language and would not have hired Ryan or anybody on his staff when he coached who used those words.
A media firestorm ensued, with Dungy and Ryan finally talking to clear the air. Dungy said before the Dallas luncheon he was only responding honestly when asked a question.
“That’s what I am, I’m a straight-shooter,” Dungy said. “If somebody asks me questions, I’m going to answer them.”
Dungy’s third book, “The Mentor Leader,” has been released after two best-selling successes. He said he wants to continue to help as many people as possible with his belief in honestly, morality and faith in Jesus Christ.
A member of Central Tampa Church, a plant of suburban Idlewild Baptist Church, Dungy said he is enjoying his new life as a full-time dad and husband, worshiping in his home church when he is town on Sundays, working at NBC Sports and going to see his son play college football at the University of Oregon.
“I enjoy being with my family and spending time with them. NBC Sports allows me to still keep my foot in it [football]. I’m looking forward to seeing my son play on Saturday, but it was still special to be on the field on Sunday [as an NFL coach].”
The last time Dungy said he had been in Dallas was when his undefeated Colts were upset by the Cowboys in 2006. Later that year, Dungy led the Colts to the team’s first-ever Super Bowl title. That win, he said, proved a coach could have strong, public faith, clean language, solid values and still be successful.
“That’s one of the things I wanted to do was show people that there was a different way and it could be done differently and still succeed,” Dungy said.
He added he was pleased to see his good friend and fellow Christian, Jim Caldwell, take the Colts back to the Super Bowl last year.
“Jim and I have a lot of things in common, both on and off [the field], so that was good to see.”
At last year’s Super Bowl, both Dungy and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick spoke at the Athletes in Action Super Bowl Breakfast. Vick shared how Dungy had helped guide him on the path back from prison and financial ruin to a renewed faith in Christ.
“Michael is doing well and I think [quarterback] Donovan McNabb was very helpful to him. I don’t know what’s going to happen as an individual situation, football-wise, or if [Vick] he will ever come back, but off the field he had grown and done very well.”
Art Stricklin is a Dallas-based sports correspondent for Baptist Press.