Sunday, April 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tony Dungy reaches pinnacle of sports: Hall of Fame

CANTON, Ohio — Tony Dungy's rise came after a fall. Had he not been cut as a player after three NFL seasons, the business major at Minnesota may never have become a football coach.

"I figured I'd play about 10 years in the league, get a little nest egg, become a businessman," Dungy said. "I ended up getting cut and traded a couple of times and finally cut again, and now I'm 25 years old and not really sure what I'm going to do."

Steelers coach Chuck Noll offered him a chance to become a defensive assistant coach, and after one day at work, he was hooked.

"I remember the first day I went to work, just sitting in there and taking notes and learning, and I couldn't wait to get back the next day," Dungy said. "I didn't know how good I would be at it. But the more I did it, the more I enjoyed it, and it ended up being a 28-year career."

On Saturday night, the nice guy finished first again, becoming the first African-American head coach to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

When Dungy joined the Steelers' staff, there were only 10 African-American assistant coaches in the NFL, and he paid special tribute to them Saturday: Willie Brown, Buck Buchanan, Earnel Durden, Bob Ledbetter, Elijah Pitts, Jimmy Raye, Johnny Roland, Al Tabor, Lionel Taylor and Allan Webb.

"Many of them never got the chance to move up the coaching ladder like I did. But they were so important to the progress of this league," Dungy said. "And those guys were like my dad, they didn't complain about the lack of opportunities, they found ways to make the situation better.

"Without those 10 coaches laying the groundwork, the NFL would not have the 200-plus minority assistant coaches it has today. And we would not have had Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith coaching against each other in Super Bowl XLI."

Until the moment he unveiled his bust with presenter and former Steelers teammate Donnie Shell, what Dungy represented off the field always seemed to overshadow what he accomplished on it.

As the head coach of the Bucs and the Colts, he proved that you don't have to yell and scream to be heard. That you can stand for something more than wins. That if you win a championship but don't make the community where you live better, you have lost.

Dungy expressed amazement that he's the 10th Steelers player from the Super Bowl XIII team to make the Hall of Fame.

"You could've won a lot of money in '78 if you'd bet I was going to be one of those 10," Dungy joked.

The fact is that Dungy wouldn't see the glass half empty if you dumped it over his head.

After improving defenses with the Steelers, the Chiefs and the Vikings, Dungy was passed over for an NFL head coaching job year after year after year.

Dungy thanked the Glazer family for finally hiring him to coach the Bucs in '96.

"Nineteen ninety-seven was probably my favorite year in coaching," Dungy said Saturday. "We made the playoffs for the first time in 15 years and those fans went crazy."

But after losing a playoff game to the Eagles in January 2002, Dungy was fired. "Losing my job was another painful disappointment," Dungy said. "But again, God used it to lead me to a blessing. That's when Jim Irsay called and invited me to join him and Bill Polian in Indianapolis."

Dungy entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame more celebrated Saturday for his accomplishments with the Colts than with the Bucs.

But despite averaging more than 12 wins per season in Indianapolis, there was a time when Dungy's failure to win a Super Bowl with once-in-a-generation quarterback Peyton Manning threatened to tarnish his legacy.

For Dungy, it was Super Bowl or no bust.

"The other thing how football is like life is how you finish," Dungy said. "When I talk to kids all the time, I tell them probably our biggest win was the 2006 AFC Championship game. We were only ahead for one minute. We were behind for 59 minutes, but the last minute, we were ahead and that's what counts. So matter where you start or how tough things are, you have time to come back. I think those are the lessons you learn."

Funny thing about joining the Pro Football Hall of Fame: From a professional standpoint, there are only ups and no downs. You can't be released. You can't be fired. You are immortal.

"I feel like I'm representing those 10 men and all the African-American coaches who came before me and paved the way and I thank them very much," he said.

Comments
How Baker Mayfield can benefit the Bucs

How Baker Mayfield can benefit the Bucs

TAMPA — The buzz surrounding this year's NFL draft is a class of talented quarterbacks deep enough to challenge the record six taken in the first round in 1983, a group that included future Hall of Famers John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino.Th...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Ex-NFL kicker Jay Feely apologizes for ‘joke’ gun photo

Ex-NFL kicker Jay Feely apologizes for ‘joke’ gun photo

Former NFL kicker Jay Feely, who was born in Odessa and starred at Tampa Jesuit, has apologized for a photo he intended as a joke, showing him holding a gun as he poses with his daughter and her prom date."Wishing my beautiful daughter and her date a...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Shaquem Griffin: ‘I’m not just a feel-good story’

Shaquem Griffin: ‘I’m not just a feel-good story’

TAMPA — Shaquem Griffin wakes up knowing each day will be better than the last and barely able to wait until tomorrow."It's just a whirlwind,'' Griffin said.On Thursday, he will walk the red carpet with his family, including his twin brother, S...
Published: 04/21/18
Bucs not listening to outsiders, but expectations remain high for 2018

Bucs not listening to outsiders, but expectations remain high for 2018

TAMPA —Wait 'til this year seems to be the refrain at One Buc Place, even though the team was strangled by expectations in 2017. But a solid offseason that has already brought a rebuilt defensive line, new center and place-kicker has renewed th...
Published: 04/21/18
NFL draft confessions: The Bucs set the trap, and I took the cheese on Johnny Manziel

NFL draft confessions: The Bucs set the trap, and I took the cheese on Johnny Manziel

TAMPA — The NFL draft is one big game of Liar's Poker. Deal me out.Even the guys with a seat at the table don't know when someone is bluffing.Bucs general manager Jason Licht knows that the team's No. 7 overall pick this year will be affected b...
Published: 04/20/18
Bucs’ Jameis Winston, Mike Evans catch Miami Heat game from courtside

Bucs’ Jameis Winston, Mike Evans catch Miami Heat game from courtside

We've seen Jameis Winston and Mike Evans bonding this offseason, going to Texas A&M pro day together, among other events. The two Bucs stars and their significant others double-dated Thursday night, getting courtside seats to watch the Miami Heat in ...
Published: 04/20/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Bucs have a tough start to their schedule

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Bucs have a tough start to their schedule

The NFL did the Bucs no favors with their 2018 schedule, Rick Stroud says, making them open at New Orleans, followed by home games against Philadelphia and Pittsburgh Plus, linebacker Kendall Beckwith had surgery to repair a broken ankle, p...
Published: 04/20/18
Here’s the Bucs’ full 2018 schedule

Here’s the Bucs’ full 2018 schedule

TAMPA — How good can the Bucs be in 2018? Fans will get a good sense in the first three weeks, as Tampa Bay opens the year with three of its toughest games, all against reigning division champions. The Bucs open 2018 in New Orleans on Sept. 9 ...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Bucs linebacker Kendell Beckwith fractured ankle in car accident

Bucs linebacker Kendell Beckwith fractured ankle in car accident

TAMPA – Bucs linebacker Kendell Beckwith had surgery to repair a broken ankle he suffered in a car accident in Louisiana last week, putting his status for the start of the season in question.Beckwith was passenger in car driven by former L...
Published: 04/19/18
Bucs’ home schedule leaked: Hosting Eagles in Week 2

Bucs’ home schedule leaked: Hosting Eagles in Week 2

The 2018 NFL schedule won't be released until 8 p.m. tonight, but the Bucs' eight home games were posted early — and presumably accidentally — on the team's site, showing what would be a daunting start to the upcoming season.Multiple outl...
Published: 04/19/18