Tony Dungy Built Winning Foundation With Colts

Intro: On the day before he officially enters football immortality, Tony Dungy wanted to say thank you to a place he helped transform into a football city.


CANTON, Ohio. – The phone call was around 45 minutes long.

Jim Irsay was explaining to Tony Dungy that what the head coach had experienced as a player with the Steelers was polar opposite to the history of professional football in Indianapolis.

As Irsay conveyed what he was looking for from Dungy, hopefully his next head coach, he painted a picture that took a unique artist to complete.

Dungy had all the right strokes.

"We don't have grandparents that have taken grandkids to games," Irsay said to Dungy. "We've got to connect with the community. We've got to build this…"

Winning was priority No. 1.

But there was more that needed to be done in Indianapolis.

If Dungy needed any proof, he points to his home debut in 2002 against the Miami Dolphins.

"Playing the Dolphins my first year and seeing Bob Griese jerseys in the building and Dolphins' fans 1/3 of the building...," Dungy says of a first-hand look at how the culture needed to be changed in Indianapolis.

"Then three years later, it's all blue and all white and Colts' jerseys everywhere on the streets and our guys being a big part of the community. That to me is as special as winning a Super Bowl."

The winning was abundant in Indianapolis for Dungy.

Seven seasons. Seven postseason berths. Seven double-digit win campaigns.

When Dungy looks back on his time in Indy, how his team triumphed through unforeseen adversity stirs up moments why he will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this weekend.

The highs in Indianapolis? Dungy's kids growing up in Indy. Winning like no other, highlighted by Super Bowl XLI.

The lows? Personal tragedies, with the death of Dungy's son, James. Players, like Reggie Wayne and Gray Brackett, losing immediate family members.

Through it all, Dungy's Colts kept climbing, and eventually reached the NFL's peak.

"Having those things hurt, makes you stronger and it's why I'm so passionate about Indianapolis," Dungy said on Friday afternoon, a day before he will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall Fame.

On Saturday night, Dungy will be the second-to-last inductee to speak in the Class of 2016.

Dungy's speech, one he ballparks around 12-to-13 minutes, will have a sincere thank you to how the city of Indianapolis welcomed him.

"I think the biggest indicator of that was our (Super Bowl XLI in 2007) parade," Dungy says. "We are two hours late. We get the weather report that it's five degrees. How many people are going to be there?

"We land and the streets are packed and the dome is packed. That was kind of indicative of the type of fans we have.

"They've been sensational, supportive, made us feel so much at home and supported us through thick and thin."

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