LISTEN TO EP.60
How Disappointments Prepare Great Leaders with Super Bowl-Winning Coach, Tony Dungy
Your biggest disappointments can often be preparation for God’s greater purpose. Tony Dungy, #1 New York Times bestselling author, who led the Indianapolis Colts to victory in Super Bowl XLI, the first such win for an African American head coach, and current studio analyst for NBC’s Football Night in America discusses career highlights, faith, handling criticism, fatherhood, and the importance of passing on what you have learned through mentorship.
EP.60 Highlight Article
Tony Dungy: A life more than football
How do you bring together a group of alpha males and females willing to put the goals of the team ahead of their individual ones? Tony Dungy visited The Influencers Podcast to share how leaders can accomplish this and how his faith and family are more important than football. For many people, when they hear the name Tony Dungy they think football. But there’s more to Dungy and he has purposefully lived his life to ensure it. Dungy is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, who led the Indianapolis Colts to victory in Super Bowl XLI, but he is also a man of charity, strong faith and a dedicated father to eleven kids.
Faith, Family, Football
Dungy describes his first meeting with the Pittsburgh Steelers. “I came to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1977 in the middle of a four Super Bowl win run and Coach Noll told us, ‘Don’t make football your whole life. You’re in professional football. That means you get paid to play, but please don’t make it your whole life.’ And I had a chance to learn from him and to learn from a lot of other players that you can’t focus your life around a sport. It is very short-term thinking.”
Dungy’s mother’s favorite Bible verse was Matthew 16:26, “What would it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” From the time he was a young child he was taught faith and family over everything else. His mother taught Sunday school class and would practice her lessons on Dungy and his siblings. When he had questions, his mother would listen and show him what the Bible says. But Dungy shares that as he grew those teachings went into the background when he focused on sports and school. While playing in the National Football League he remembered his mother’s words about the Bible and Matthew 16:26 as he saw first-hand the effects of fame and notoriety for many. Unpleasantly surprised by the number of men who had wrecked lives even with millions of dollars and more accolades then they could ask for, Dungy knew the Bible was right. “The Bible became my focal point and I wanted to grow and learn from it,” he shares. “Even through coaching I would tell Bible stories and parables to our team.”
Dungy recalls a time when his team was playing a game in Tampa and were missing many key players, so to encourage them he shared about Gideon’s army. Telling how Gideon was down and didn’t have many men for battle, but they still went out and fought the Midianites though they were outnumbered. At the end of his motivating words, one of the players raised his hand and asked, “So what happened in the story?” “It never even occurred to me that they may not have known the story. So, I said they slaughtered them with just 300 people!” The team was fired up to play their hardest. “They responded to the Bible,” Dungy said.
Bringing Unity to a Diverse Team
Through the years, Dungy has coached huge talent within a diverse range of individuals. The challenge is pulling them together, teaching them to set aside their individual ways and performance, and focus as a team. This is what makes a championship. “A leader has to try to channel everybody’s drive into that,” Dungy explains. “I saw it work and it was awesome.”
For Dungy, the fine art of bringing unity to a diverse team is to not lose individual goals, but to filter them through the team goal so everyone goes farther together. He believes a strong team leader can do this in sports, business, and family—put personal goals behind the good of the group.
What a great joy to welcome all of you to the Influencers Podcast and what a great program we have today. Just to hear the name, Tony Dungy (www.coachdungy.com), probably makes you think about football, but he is far more than just football, a bestselling author. If you’ve never read Quiet Strength, it’s a must read Uncommon, The Mentor Leader, Uncommon Marriage. And of course he is well loved in Florida where I am right now. Tell me to Tampa bay Buccaneers in 1996, when we weren’t doing so good and put together the defense that many would say, and I would agree, helped us to win Super Bowl 37. He went on to Indianapolis Colts and won Super Bowl 41. He is not just a man of football. He’s a man of charity love. He’s really dedicated to helping people. I’ve I’ve a long list of things he’s involved in. He’s involved in All Pro Dad. He’s involved in A Brown Ministries, Fellowship of Christian athletes, Athletes in Action, Mentors for Life, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Boys, and Girls Club, taking a breath, Basket of Hope, Impact for Living, the Black Coaches Association, the Indiana Black Expo, United way, American Diabetes Association. He is a “Hall of Famer” in 2016. He was inducted into the pro football hall of fame and coach. It is such a joy to welcome you to the influencers podcast.
Well, thank you, Scott. Thanks for having me. I look forward to having some fun and discussing some world topics with you.
Faith, Family, Football
Absolutely. And probably one of the most important things you had the good sense to marry a girl from Pittsburgh, Lauren, and you have 11 children. So fatherhood is very important. I read somewhere that faith and family are more important to you than football. Is that a true statement? And what does that mean?
Well it is my mother’s favorite verse in the Bible was Matthew 16:26. What would it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? So faith. Yeah, it was very important for me from the time I was a kid. Then you grow up and you learn about family, family shapes, who you are. And then you have a chance to shape someone else. But I was very fortunate. And you mentioned Pittsburgh. I came to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1977 in the middle of a, a four super bowl run and coach Noll. Chuck Noll was our coach and he told us in the very first meeting, don’t make football your whole life. You’re you’re in professional football. That means you get paid to play, but please, please, please don’t make it your whole life. And I had a chance to learn from him and to learn from a lot of other players that you can’t focus around a sport. If you do, that is very short-term thinking.
The Value of Mentorship
So you received mentorship and mentorship is a big theme in your life, and you’ve also passed on mentorship to others. Why do you think that passing on what you’ve been given is so important in our lives?
It’s just the normal thing we should do. Scott, I’ll tell you when we won the super bowl 2006, I remember the last two or three minutes of the game. We were ahead. We knew we were going to win and I’m just sitting there on the sideline thinking, how did I get here from Jackson, Michigan, I’m coaching the world champions and just, it’s impossible almost. And I started thinking back to my dad and my uncles and my high school coaches. And some of the guys that were a little bit older than me in Jackson and then my college coaches and coach Noll and all the people who had poured into my life. And you think, wow, you know, without them, I wouldn’t be here. So that would be really selfish to say, you know what? I had 50, a hundred people that poured into me, but I’m not going to pour into anybody else. And so I I’ve really taken that to heart and tried to help out and try to be there for other people, especially younger men. I think it’s so important that we pass on what we’ve learned.
Bringing Unity to a Diverse Team
Yeah. And, and you have coached diverse talent. You’ve coached some huge talent. You’ve probably coached some huge egos, strong individuals. And as you, you mentor them, this is how do you take diverse individuals that are pulling in individual ways and focus them to work together as, as a team and to bring some unity to them.
I think that’s the great team thing about team sports actually is you learned that that’s what makes a championship thing. As I say, I was 21 years old. I came to the Steelers, there were 10 future hall of Famers on that team. I didn’t know it at the time, but I’m coming in, walking in the locker room and there was Joe Green and Franco Harris and Terry Bradshaw, Len Swan, and just the, you know, Jack Lambert names of guys who are icons, but everybody was focused on winning a championship and a ring and it wasn’t individual performance. And so I learned that from coach Noll, that to, to have a great team, you want high achievers, you want those alpha males and alpha females, but the challenge is how do we then get 53 men to work together for one goal? And that’s what the leader has to do is to try to channel everybody’s drive into that. And I, I saw at work and I saw that it was awesome. So from then on, it was, how can I do that as, as an assistant coach, as a head coach, as a friend, just getting people to work together and say, you know what, your, your individual goals, that’s great. We don’t want you to lose them at all, but just put them underneath the team goals. And I think that’s an anything that’s in a family that’s in a business and a team putting, putting individual goals underneath the good of the group.
Yeah. And you were part of that amazing Pittsburgh team. My, my father-in-law started a church in Pittsburgh. And if you are in Pittsburgh, you have to be a Steelers fan. In fact, what the church, here’s the church communion table. He would have black and gold carnations on the church communion table. And I think people, I think every weekend may pray for this dealers. And in fact, you’re one of the few guys to be a, a player with a championship Superbowl and a head coach. In fact, you’re the,
Yeah, there are only four of us. I was the third one to do it. And then Doug Peterson w when the Philadelphia Eagles won it, he became number four. So it’s a, it’s a small fraternity. And it’s, it’s fun because you see it from both sides as a player, you’re just focused on yourself. How do I do my job? So are, you know, I can contribute to the team as a head coach. How do I put all this together? How do I keep everybody functioning together? How do I put out the fires over here? How do I motivate over here? And it, for me, it was a lot more fun doing it as a coach.
Justice and Awareness
Well, and you coach well, you’re in, and even smaller club, the first African American head coach to win a Super Bowl. And I just want to ask you, cause there’s a lot of tension in the nation, a lot of tension in the, in the country. And I want to just get your perspective on as a person of faith. And I’m a person of faith and we have people listening to us that are people of faith. How do people of faith, or how should we be working on social justice issues, racial issues that are in the country? What perspective do you bring on to that coach?
I think we absolutely should be. That should be paramount with us. And there are a lot of scriptures that go over that, you know, Micah talks about love mercy, love justice, seek justice, walk humbly with your God that he wants us to do that. Jesus said, when you help the least of one of these, my brothers and sisters, you’re helping me. You’re doing it for me. So I think God would want us to be very aware of what’s going on around us and be a voice for those who don’t have a voice. Now we have to do it the right way and we have to do it in love and we have to do it the way Jesus would do it, but he was, Jesus was a champion for social justice. And we can’t just say, well, Hey, I’m doing fine. And my little group’s doing fine. So that, that, that’s all the matters. I think God would want us as Christians to speak up for, for people who need a voice. Yeah.
If God is the Center, He will Show Up
And you’ve, even while we’ve been talking a few minutes, we’ve been together, the scripture keeps coming up. I’ve listened to you talk many times, I guess the Bible is important to you. Where does that come from and how does that shape your worldview? Today
It probably came from my mother the most, but I had a great background. My grandfather, my dad’s dad was a Baptist minister. So we were all kind of familiar with the Bible and scripts. I had two uncles two of my dad’s brothers were ministers, but my mom taught Sunday school class. And she would practice on us on Thursday nights and she’d say, well, what did you get out of that? And if we didn’t come up with the right answer, then she’d have to tweak her her message a little bit. But I heard all the Bible stories and my mom was just great. Anytime I had a question, she would, you know, she’d thanks. He’d listen. And she said, well, here’s what God says. Here’s what the Bible says about this. And as I got a little older, you know, as a young boy and I got focused on sports, then that kind of went into background a little bit.
Gosh, I’ve gotta be a good ball player. And I’ve got to be a good student. Yeah. I remember what my mom said. I’ll be a nice person. I’ll be a good person, but let me tunnel vision on what I want to do. But as I got a little older and matured, I started to see things in life. You know, she, as she told me, you know, what would a profit Amanda gain the whole world and forfeit his soul. Now I get to the national football league. And I see guys making millions of dollars with all the accolades you’re going to ask for. And their life is a wreck. And I said, you know, and mom was right. And then so more and more things would happen. And I’d say, yeah, mom was right. And I realized that where she got it from was not, it wasn’t her ideas.
It was from the Bible. So for me, that became my focal point and I wanted to grow and learn about that. And even when I coached I would tell Bible stories to our team. I would use parables just like Jesus did. And it, it would be amazing. I remember one time we’re playing a game in Tampa my first second year as an assistant coach. I mean, as the head coach and we were missing several key players and I told them about Gideon’s army and how get in was down. And he didn’t have many men. And they went out and defeated the Midianites and they got after him, even though they were outnumbered. And I said, that’s what we’re going to do tomorrow. And one of the guys sat his hand up and said, well, what happened? It never even occurred to me that nobody would know the story. I’ve finished. All, they routed them. They slotted them. And with 300 people and the guys were so fired up, let’s go, let’s go. But you know, I, I took a lot of things back to the Bible and I thank my players. You know, they, they really responded to that.
Yeah. So just in your leadership, you found truth in the scriptures that you applied even to coaching.
Absolutely. Absolutely. I would just think about things when things would come up, you know, it’s kind of corny to say, what would Jesus do? But for me it was, you know, what would the Bible do? I remember another time I was an assistant coach with the Steelers were playing to play off game out in Denver. And one of the TV technicians had watched Denver practice earlier. And they were talking about a play that Denver was going to run a trick play. And I knew I wasn’t supposed to know it that way. And I just thought, you know what, my responsibility, gosh, I need to tell my players that, but that wasn’t the right way to get the information that’s wrong. And I shouldn’t do this. And I went back and forth on that. And I remember what my mother said, doing the right thing, because the way to go. So I didn’t tell my team and sure enough, they run this trick, play and gain about 80 yards. And I felt so bad, but I knew that I did the right thing. I said, my mom would be proud. The next play we stopped and we intercepted a ball. And I was just like, that’s the Lord said you did it the right way.
Criticism and Leadership
So good. That’s so good. Now, as a leader, people criticize, anytime someone leads, there’s voices of criticism. There’s voices that second gas and you’ve been you’ve, you’ve had criticism as a, as a I think any, any coach takes criticism, but you’ve had this. And it came quite strength. When I read, read quiet strength. It’s a, it’s a characteristic that I think Jesus talks about when he says meekness. He says, blessed are the meek, and it’s not a weakness, but you carry with you that quiet strength, which I think is power under control. You’re not known as a yeller. You’re, you’re more like a teacher and a mentor. So what would you say to someone today that’s listening and they’re facing opposition, criticism and attacks. How do they keep that quiet strength? How do they use the power? The strength that you’ve learned somewhere?
Yeah. Number one, I would tell people, if you lead, you are going to get criticism. You’re, you’re going to get a lot of praise at times. That’s undeserved. You’re going to get criticism that’s undeserved. So know that it’s coming. And then the question is, how are you going to respond to it? And one thing I learned from coach, no working for him, he said, take everything in and process it. If it’s valid, then you can make a change. If it’s not valid, ignore it, move forward and be stubborn about your principles. Stubbornness is a virtue. If you’re right, it’s only a bad quality if you’re wrong. And that, that told me a lot. And so I, I don’t think I try to just disregard anything that’s said about me, but I’ll evaluate it. And if I know it’s just, you know, just worthless criticism don’t even respond. Just, just kind of say, Hey, this is what I do. This is who I am. I’m not going to worry about if it is valid criticism, what can I do to adjust and be better? But I tried not to respond to people who are just critical for no reason.
I did the home. You grew up in, you talked a lot about your mother. Was it a quiet home? Was it a place where people were thoughtful and you seem very contemplative and very, you think about things before you, before you engage your, your voice. You’re like thinking about things. Yeah,
No that I got from my dad. My dad was a scientist. He was the science teacher and he was always the thoughtful one. I’d come home with a problem. They didn’t put me in today at coached in a play, but he doesn’t think I’m very good. And my mom would always give me the hug. Oh, that’s too bad. You’re going to be okay. And what can we do about this? My dad would listen and they’d listen and think, and then he’d say, well, what are you going to do to make it better tomorrow? That was all his answer. What are you going to do to make it better? He was just a very, very thoughtful guy. He really went by that, that verse in James, be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger. He was very slow to speak. One of the smartest guys I ever knew, but unless you asked him a question, he wouldn’t just blurt out the answer. You know, sometimes I would sit there and say, dad, you knew that. Why didn’t you tell him they didn’t ask me? But I, so I think I had a perfect balance. My mom was outgoing. She was take the love of Christ. Share with everybody. Be as upbeat as you can. My dad be very thoughtful. Think about what you’re going to say first. And so I think I had a really good balance. So
With you and Lauren, is that how it works in your family?
She’s like my mom, I’m like my dad, and I think we’re a good mix, but, but that patience and thoughtfulness and taking things in and that’s been good for me over the years, I think it’s served me well to, to not overreact, to not not do the wrong thing out of haste.
Yeah. I really think that meekness is much needed in our current culture and society that people would take that moment to think. They have power, but to use it properly, to use it in a measured way that brings healing and doesn’t hurt.
It’s amazing. You say that when, when I was a up and coming assistant coach, that was my personality and people thought it was a strength. Boy, he’s very good. And he adapts and his stuffs and his teams, you know, play that way. When I started interviewing as a head coach, people in the, in the world, looked at that as a weakness and several owners and general managers said, gosh, you just don’t seem like the head coach type to me. You just don’t seem aggressive enough. And how are you going to keep guys under control and all that? And I didn’t get several jobs because of that perception of my personality. And I would always tell him, well, just look at my guys, look at how my team plays and judge me from that. And they would say, well, that’s okay, but when you’re the leader, you have to be this and you have to be that. And it’s hard biblical leadership. And that picture of Christ. I love the picture of the shepherd that he’s just leading and the chef and the sheep are following. You know, he’s not behind them. Like the, the cattle drive with a whip and, and pushing them where they want to go. He said, I know where to go. If you follow me, we’re going to be okay. And that was always the way I want to do it. But some people see that as not being effective.
Trusting God’s Calls
Well, we’re glad you didn’t get those other. So you could come here to Tampa bay and it all worked out. In fact, all things, here’s a verse. You love all things do work together for good. Those who are called according to God’s purpose. And let me ask you about that verse, because I know that’s an important verse to you. Today there’s a lot of tension, stress, someones even say evil in culture and society, where have you seen God coming into what we would say, broken circumstances and situations and turning them for good. And how do we live that out in our lives today?
It took me a long time to realize that my mom always told that to me and just be patient. God’s going to work it out. God’s got a plan and I couldn’t always see it. But as I look back now in my life, the biggest disappointments in my life were the left turns or right turns I needed to make to go on. I didn’t get drafted into the NFL. I was so disappointed and little did I know God was sending me to Pittsburgh where so many good things would happen. I was a quarterback and I didn’t get a chance to play quarterback. And they moved me to defense and I thought, oh, this is horrible. And God was preparing me to be a coach. So I learned both sides of the ball. I won a super bowl ring in, in Pittsburgh. The next year I got traded to the worst team in football, the San Francisco 49ers.
How can I go from a super bowl team to a team that only won two games? Well, there was a young coach there by the name of bill Walsh who was putting together a super bowl, a powerhouse team. So I got to see coach know how he did it at the top. I got to see coach Walsh develop a winning team. God was preparing me to be a coach. I didn’t know it. I go to Tampa after 15 years of disappointments of not getting jobs. And it’s the perfect place for me. Our family still lives here. I got fired in Tampa. And you know, you think, gosh, this, this is terrible. This is the worst thing that could happen. Well, 18 days later, I’m coaching the Indianapolis Colts and I’ve got a quarterback named Peyton, man. This guy was just telling me every step along the way. I know this this point, but I’m testing your faith. I’m going to see if you’re still with me or are you only with me when it’s good? And are you only winning then when it’s going the way you want it to go. And I had to learn that it took me a long time. Yeah.
And that’s so good for people that are listening that right now, they’re in that place that says, man, that was, that was a terrible thing that happened that I wasn’t expecting that. And just to hear you, it’s really extolling the wisdom of God that God, from his perspective, just sees things differently than we do on the ground. You see things differently from the sideline than you do on the field. And God’s calling those, those calls.
Fatherhood: The Key Ingredient
I know also a coach fatherhood is very important to you. 11 kids. That’s amazing. And a lot of guys, there’s a lot of guys that are listening and when they see your name, they’re going to like tune in just to see what, what you say. And a lot of the guys that are listening, won’t play on a an NFL team. They’ll never go to the super bowl, but they’re coaching their family. They’re influencing their sons and their daughters. And what would you just say to dads that are listening and, and what’s your, what’s your message to fathers?
It’s such an important role? I, I knew that because I had that, that great mentorship from my dad, but I kind of took it for granted. And then I saw the effects of people who didn’t have it. And when I came to Tampa, one of the first things that happened to me, I ran into a gentleman. You mentioned a brown ministries, a brown was a tremendous, tremendous high school coach in the Tampa area. He became a pastor and then he developed a prison ministry, visited every prison in Florida over the course of a year and did that for 20 years. He asked me to go with him on a outreach and I was a little nervous, but I went and I saw all these young, 19, 20, 21 year old kids. I saw so many just smart, sharp guys. And I remember coming back on the bus with Reverend Brownson, tell me what, what’s the common denominator.
And he said, four guys in there. It’s not social economics. It’s not education. It’s not race. It’s not money. 95% of those guys either did not grow up with their dad, or they didn’t have a great relationship with their father that, and I saw that and I said, man, are you telling me that is how important fatherhood is? And he said, it absolutely is. It’s the key ingredient. And so I knew that kind of appear in my head, but saying it and hearing him say that it just made it all the more critical for me. And that’s shortly after that, we started all pro dad and just trying to encourage men to be the best fathers we could be, because it’s so important. And not only developing young men, but developing young, young women as well.
I read at one point, you even considered maybe leaving coaching to work in the prisons.
I thought when I, when I got fired in Tampa, I said, the Lord is trying to show me something. Maybe he’s taking me out of the game that I know so well, and he’s got something else for me. And all pro dad would just kind of started up there working with Reverend brown and maybe, maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s the prison ministry and the fatherhood ministry right here in Tampa. He doesn’t want me to leave town. But he wants me to stay involved in these ministries here and get more involved. And I was praying about that. And then I got a call from the owner of the Colts. And he said, I want you to coach our team. I want you to coach it just like you did in Tampa, but what, what you did, that’s what I’m looking for. I want to win, but we want to connect with the community. We want to do it with the right kind of guys. We want to have role models. I mean, it was music to my ears and I really felt no, that’s what God wants me to do.
Yeah. Well, and we’re glad that you’ve been sensitive to that inner direction, that voice of the spirit of God, as he’s led and guide you and your voice in speaking your voice in writing you you’re mentoring many people that you don’t even know, you’re mentoring. I’m one of those people. I love your, I love your stuff. Love your first book. That’s the best one for me. I just love that quiet strength book. It taught me some things in my life, which I appreciate. And just thanks. Thanks for being with us today. Hey, could I ask, could you just, just close up, could you pray for us? Could you pray for those that are leaders, whether they’re leading in business or church or work or in the community and, and just ask God to strengthen us that we won’t draw back that we’ll just continue to go.
Yeah. Yeah. Thank you, Scott Lord, we we in America, we’re in native leadership. We’re in need of, of later sip that can not only lead us as a country, but point us to you. And I, I just pray that you will just raise up our listeners, that we can be bold, that we can speak for you, that we can walk for you and be those, those men and women that you would have us to be, be bold, but be sensitive, be strong, but be tender. And to just protect our family, lead our families, guide our families. But even more than that, be those colors in the community that people can look at and say, well, I would that that’s who I want to follow. We need that Lord. We can only do that if we follow you though. And we just thank you and praise you for that opportunity, Lord in Jesus name. Amen.
A man coach, thank you for sharing with us today. Thanks for being an incredible influencer yourself and taking time with our influencers today. We are so glad to have this time with you.
Alrighty. Thank you, Scott. I appreciate it. Great to be with you.