A FITTING HONOR

Former Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy will be inducted into the Colts' Ring of Honor Monday. 'You never dream these kinds of things,' Dungy said recently.

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Former Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy to be Inducted Into Ring of Honor

INDIANAPOLIS – High though his hopes were, Tony Dungy never dreamed this.

Dungy, who spent seven seasons as the Colts' head coach, will be inducted into the team's Ring of Honor on Monday night at halftime of the Colts' game against the Houston Texans, and when it happens, Dungy said it will bring memories of a special time. How special?

Consider, that in seven seasons under Dungy, the Colts:

*Won 12 or more games six times.

*Made seven post-season appearances.

*Won six AFC South titles.

*Made two AFC title game appearances.

*Won Super Bowl XLI.

Yet, while Dungy said he imagined success when hired by Colts Owner and Chief Executive Officer Jim Irsay in January 2002, he said what became the reality of his time with the Colts far outdid anything anyone reasonably would have dared to imagine.

"I guess in your wildest imagination you dream about it, but you don't expect it to go that way," Dungy, who retired in January 2009 after seven seasons as the Colts' head coach and who is now an analyst for NBC's Football Night in America, said recently.

"You want to have success and you believe you're going to, but along the way in my stops playing and coaching, there had been different experiences. . . .

"You feel like you're going to have success, but you never dream of these kinds of things."

Dungy, who spent a decade and a half as an assistant with Pittsburgh, Kansas City and Minnesota, spent six seasons as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, turning a long-struggling franchise into one qualifying for the post-season in four of his six seasons.

Overall, his teams made the post-season 11 of 13 seasons, including the final 10 seasons he coached, but when discussing Dungy this week, Colts players and coaches this week spoke as much about the person as their former coach.

"The guy is absolutely fantastic in terms of what he was able to do on the field of play, but then he supersedes that off the field," said Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell, who coached under Dungy in 2001 in Tampa Bay and from 2002-08 in Indianapolis. "He's an icon in terms of integrity, in terms of professionalism and he set a huge example for all of us. It was a real pleasure for us to have an opunity to work with him all of those years.

"He set a great example for us as being a man of God, and also in terms of how he handled this position professionally. He didn't work all night long, certainly did everything in moderation and was able to spend a lot of time with his family and nurture them along as well. Quite a man.

"The greatest thing about him is what you see, is what you get."

Caldwell said that in eight years working for Dungy, he never heard him raise his voice.

"You guys have heard me say this time and time again, but the fact of the matter is that this game is a very emotional game, it's a very difficult game to keep your composure," Caldwell said. "That says a lot. In this game that is very tough to do.

"That's difficult to do, but he did it as well as anyone, on and off the field."

Quarterback Peyton Manning led the Colts to two playoff appearances in four seasons and made the Pro Bowl twice from 1998-2001. Since Dungy's 2002 arrival, Manning has led the Colts to eight consecutive playoff appearances, made eight Pro Bowls and been named National Football League Most Valuable Player four times.

"I hope it's somewhat well documented on how I feel about him," Manning said. "He definitely belongs in that Ring (of Honor), and it will give our Ring of Honor some juice, too. I think it will be exciting for the fans, I know to have him back in here.

"He's had a huge impact on so many people in this building."

Defensive end Dwight Freeney was the first player selected in the draft following Dungy's hiring – No. 11 in 2002.

"Obviously, Tony means so much to the city, this state, this team, the defense," Freeney said. "No one deserves it more than him – all of the things that he has been through, the way he carries himself as a man and as a coach. He's special."

Colts middle linebacker and defensive captain Gary Brackett said it's impossible to think of Dungy the coach without thinking of the person, and vice versa.

"As a mentor and a coach, Coach Dungy saw something in me early in my career," Brackett said. "I just have very positive, lasting memories of Coach Dungy and how he could simplify the game and make you a student of the game, of understanding different schemes – and not only that, the principles he carries on the field. He's definitely a man of faith, a man of God and his principles, that's who he was.

"He wasn't going to waver. Once he said something one way, that was his decision. You have to respect a man like that. He definitely did a tremendous job of leaving his mark on this team."

Dungy said recently he has thought some about the emotions Monday will bring. He recalled a helicopter ride he often has discussed – the one he took the day he first arrived in Indianapolis as the Colts' head coach. He rode Irsay's helicopter to the Colts' complex, and thought of the excitement and responsibility he felt as the man in charge of coaching the franchise.

Monday night, Dungy said, will be an emotional final chapter to that story.

"It's going to be really special," Dungy said. "I have thought about that – being back and being honored in that way, and realizing you're going up there with some really, really special people. To know that there are guys I worked with, coached with and played with who will be up there in the near future, makes it special. To know you have been involved in an organization and they feel like you did something special – that Jim Irsay, (President) Bill Polian and the people that I worked with feel like I did something special – that's about the highest compliment you could ever get.

"I think back to when I came in. It was so neat and I remember thinking, 'Jim Irsay has confidence in me. He believes that I'm the person to run this team for him. I want to reward his confidence.' That's what I was thinking that day when I stepped off that helicopter, that I wanted to reward his confidence.

"The ceremony – that will be, 'Hey, I think I did that.'

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