It couldn't be easy being Tony Dungy's little brother. Not when he was the popular coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, not when he won the Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts, not even when he was a young star athlete. Now you can read all about it in Dungy's first children's book, You Can Do It. It's the story of how his younger brother, Linden, struggled to find his life's dream in the shadow of his big brother and science-whiz sisters. The author comes back to Tampa on Friday for a book signing at the Carrollwood Barnes & Noble. Dungy's best-selling 2007 memoir, Quiet Strength, touched on how his little brother was expected to be an athlete like Tony, though his real passion was science. We talked with the author-coach about inspiring kids to dream.
How did this book come about?
During the first book I was kind of amazed at the letters we got from people who read it to their kids. And my wife, Lauren, reads a lot to kids and is always looking for material that wasn't just the fun Dr. Seuss type of thing. She was looking for books that talked about family. We took a story that we just briefly touched on in Quiet Strength and we expanded on it and built the story around my brother, who was three years behind me.
How does your brother feel about this?
He's kind of excited. He has a lot of kids in his dental practice so he can put the books out there in the waiting room. He likes the message, too, of getting that support from family, and that it's okay to desire to do something that maybe isn't what everyone else thinks you should do.
Was he an athlete as well?
He was an athlete and he enjoyed it but not as much as he enjoyed science and reading and learning, and he's very good at what he does. I have a sister who works with high-risk pregnancies who's very good at what she does, and they don't get the notoriety.
This book is aimed at parents as much as the kids, no?
It really is, to encourage parents to talk to their kids about what they want to do and how to help and give them guidance that can light that fire in a child.
We see so many young guys coming to us in NFL that didn't grow up with their dad. My dad was such a help to me I can't even imagine not having him there for that type of guidance. We wanted to make sure there was a dad in the picture and that it shows African-American family life. You don't see a lot of that portrayed.
Does your son's suicide give you a unique perspective to talk about parenting?
Not really. I talk to so many people, and everybody has a different experience and a lot of people have gone through tragedies, and it's all pretty much the same. It's like an athletic career. You don't win every game but you can still have a championship season even with a couple of losses. And that's the way you have to look at it.
Is parenting like coaching?
Actually, yes. When players run into mishaps, I talk to them just like I do my kids. It is very similar. You have individuals that you want to bring out the best in and you still have a team goal. It's the same thing in a family. You want to bring out the best in your individual kids but you want them to function as a family unit.
All my siblings and myself, we are all doing what we enjoy and I think that's why we are good at it, because we love what we are doing. I think that's a tribute to our parents for helping each one of us find what we enjoy.