Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Tony Dungy: Head of the Class.

What a difference a year makes.

Last year at this time, Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy had to feel overwhelmed. His football team was considered the best in the NFL, finishing with a 14-2 record after a blistering 13-0 start to the 2005 season. Unfortunately for Dungy, the Colts once again fell short of a Super Bowl after being upset in the divisional playoffs by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

However, that pain paled in comparison to what he was suffering just a month earlier.

Three days before Christmas, Dungy’s 18-year old son, James, took his own life. It was that tragic situation which really showed us the class, character and dignity of Dungy. Instead of showing the breath-taking devastation he must have felt inside, Dungy, along with wife Lauren, rejoiced in the fact that their son was with Jesus.

Fast forward a year and once again we saw the Colts get off to a fast start. A 9-0 beginning to the 2006 campaign had the Indianapolis faithful talking Super Bowl. But a 3-4 stretch to finish the season caused the fans much trepidation. The Colts run defense was exposed, allowing an average of 191 yards rushing over that seven-game span.

Despite those anxious moments, Dungy’s calm, cool demeanor kept the Colts focused. Three playoff wins against teams with potent rushing attacks has propelled the Indianapolis Colts to the one spot that has consistently eluded them ---the Super Bowl!

When Dungy left the Minnesota Vikings as defensive coordinator after the 1995 season to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Vikes long snapper Mike Morris said “There goes the real deal.”

So on the evening of February 4, Dungy will become the first African-American head coach to hoist the Vince Lombardi trophy. He will do so in the same manner he has handled defeat and tragedy ---- with grace and humility.

The Real Deal, indeed.

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