What People Around the NFL Are Saying About Retired Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy
INDIANAPOLIS – The impact lingered after he left.
Tony Dungy, who coached the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1996-2001 before spending the last seven seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, was no longer coaching the Bucs in 2002, the season they won their first Super Bowl title.
But Warren Sapp said Dungy wasn't gone. Not really.
"All the guys that were there in the beginning – me, Derrick Brooks, Mike Alstott, John Lynch, Warrick Dunn – we would sit around and tell each other, 'remember the lessons that Tony taught us, no matter what situation we were in,'' Sapp, an All-Pro defensive tackle with the Buccaneers during Dungy's time in Tampa and after his departure, said Monday following news of Dungy's retirement.
"We spent so many difficult times with Tony playing that 'Bucs ball' with ugly 9-3 wins and just playing our way, doing whatever was necessary to win."
Such was the reaction around the NFL on Monday in the wake of Dungy's retirement after 31 NFL seasons, the last 13 as an NFL head coach.
Former players, former opposing coaches, former assistants . . .
No matter who was doing the speaking on Monday, they remembered Dungy as a coach whose impact reached beyond his record-setting, history-making success on the field.
A look at what they were saying about Dungy Monday:
Warren Sapp, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle: "He's an example that you want to live your life by. It never mattered what the situation was, Tony was always there. I was very fortunate, I lived three houses down (from Dungy in Tampa) and his daughter Tiara would babysit for my wife and I so we could have date night. The man is something special because I know the children that he raised and you just can't say enough about that."
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell: "Tony Dungy taught us all how to handle triumph and tragedy with dignity and grace. Although we will miss him, Tony is a great man and his impact will be part of the NFL forever. What we will remember most is how Tony did things, the type of leader he was, and the way he developed people. His place in NFL history is secure as a consistently successful head coach and the first African-American head coach to win the Super Bowl. But Tony's inspiring legacy also includes his positive influence on scores of players and coaches, his integrity, and his commitment to serving the community. We wish Tony, Lauren, and their family nothing but the best in the next phase of their lives."
Chicago Bears Head Coach Lovie Smith: "I'm happy for Tony and his family, but sad for our league because we are losing one of the all-time great coaches. He is one of the modern-day pioneers of our game. His résumé includes achievements no other NFL head coach has accomplished, which I'm sure will lead to a spot in the Hall of Fame. And as great of a coach as he is, he's an even better person. I owe Tony a lot. I would not be in my position today if it wasn't for him providing me with an opunity and mentorship. I learned a tremendous amount of football in my time with Tony in Tampa and made a friend for life. I'm proud to be a member of his coaching tree."
New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick: "People often say that teams reflect their head coach and that can be said of Tony Dungy's teams, which are consistent winners every single year. Tony has been such a fixture in this league that his absence will take some getting used to. He may be leaving the sideline, but Tony will be remembered fondly for a long time."
Sapp: "He's consistent. It didn't matter what it was or how the day was going or the lows we had in Tampa. When I first got to Tampa, we had 13 consecutive losing season and 12 were double-digit loss seasons, so when you talk about turning around something like that, you need a rock and that's what he was every single day."
Sapp: "Any time he had to get a point across, it didn't take many words from Tony to tell you exactly what time it was. I watched him say a word that I would have never thought he'd say only twice in the years that I spent with him, but when he said it, it was something profound and he didn't need to say it again."
Buccaneers Executive Vice President Joel Glazer: "We wish Tony and his family all the best as he heads into retirement. Tony has been a class act on and off the football field for his entire career. We thank him for his major role in helping turn this franchise around. He will be missed all across the National Football League."
Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio: "I owe Tony a debt of gratitude. He is the man most responsible for my choosing a career as a coach. Tony is a terrific coach but an even better person, a Godly man who has been amazingly steadfast in his faith. If you know Tony, you realize his life extends beyond football. I wish him nothing but the best in all that he chooses to do in the next phase of his life."
Buccaneers Linebacker Derrick Brooks: "I'd first like to congratulate Coach Dungy on a great career and wish him well moving forward. I certainly look forward to partnering with him on various community projects in Tampa. He certainly meant a lot to me as a role model; displaying high character, great integrity and consistency as a man. We cannot ask for a better ambassador for the game of football than Coach Dungy as he has always lived his life by faith, family and football, in that order."
Buccaneers running back Warrick Dunn: "The good news is that Coach Dungy may leave football but what he's really doing is moving his extraordinary influence to other places. Just like he did for me and for countless other players - he will always be able to help teach young men how to be grown and able men. And we need this - not just in football but in the bigger game of life."
Baltimore Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh: "He doesn't know this, but I feel like I've known him ever since I was in high school and he was in high school. He played at Jackson Parkside High School, and I was about five or six years behind him at Ann Arbor Pioneer High School. So he was a big star in our league. We were in the same league. Then, he went on to be a star at Minnesota, and then you just kind of watch a guy come up through the ranks. He was gracious enough over the years, whenever we might cross paths at some kind of function, to have a conversation with a young coach. Then, when we got the job, the next day he called. We had a chance to talk on the phone. We've talked somewhat regularly ever since. We'd consider him somewhat of an advisor and a friend. I think his impact on the league has been something transforming. He's changed the way sometimes coaches view the position and how they relate to the players and the type of values they put in place for the football team. I think he's changed the face of the league in some ways, and it's ever-changing that way right now for the good because of Tony Dungy."
Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach Herm Edwards: "Tony has meant a great deal to the National Football League. He has been a great head coach and a person who always did things for the betterment of the league. He always made the players well aware of what was important, to play in the league and how you conducted yourself. He was also a guy who always thought about giving young coaches opportunities. I think if you look at his tree and his legacy, it will be filled with a bunch of guys that were given their first chances. He always felt that way even when he was coming out of college in 1977, when we first met. His whole mindset was to give guys opportunities if he was going to be a coach. He'd give guys chances that maybe other people wouldn't."
Edwards: "He was always about coaching his way. He had a certain style. At times people looked at his style, like maybe he wasn't forceful enough because he wasn't demonstrative or anything like that. He was always a guy who felt that he was a teacher first and foremost. He comes from a family of teachers. He was a big proponent of teaching fundamentals and techniques and being smart, not beating yourself, and helping the players become better football players and better men."
Edwards: "His legacy as a coach will take care of itself, but his biggest legacy will be all the people around the country who he's inspired to be better and to deal with some of life's tragedies in a manner that gives people a lot of strength. What he went through with his son and how he handled it, was something that says a lot about Tony, his faith and what he stands for. His faith has always probably been the most important thing with how he lived his life, whether being a football coach, a father or a husband. It was always above reproach."
Edwards: "The league will miss him, but obviously never forget him because of what he's done and the standards that he's set, not only for coaches, but especially for black coaches. He's a guy that won a Super Bowl. I think he always looks back at the guys before him, that gave him the opportunity and now he's set up a standard for other guys to follow. You can't say, 'Well, I can do this or I can't do that,' because Tony was a big proponent on giving guys opportunities and making sure he gave them the opportunity to become better. Whatever Tony decides to do, it'll be helping people. That's his M.O. He's always done it that way. He's had a wonderful career as a player and a coach in this league. You don't replace Tony Dungy as a man. You may replace the job that he did as coach, but you don't replace Tony Dungy as a man. He's touched a lot of people's lives outside of football and that's his whole ideal. He had a platform and he used it in a manner to make a difference."
Former Buccaneers quarterback Trent Dilfer: "Tony Dungy is a man of few words, but immense influence. He had a tremendous impact on both my professional and personal life. He taught me how to be a winner on and off the field. Many of my finest memories in the NFL are from my time playing for Coach Dungy. His presence in the league will be greatly missed.''
Former Buccaneers wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson: "Coach Tony Dungy was highly motivational and taught me a lot about being a pro. We had some great years together and he will be missed around the league. There are more ways than one to skin a cat, and he did it in such a way that set an example for everyone around him."