FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Living in the Midst of Success

with Tony Dungy | January 16, 2008
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Today on the broadcast, Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy looks back on his life and remembers the blessings he's received through his family and chosen career.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Today on the broadcast, Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy looks back on his life and remembers the blessings he's received through his family and chosen career.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Today on the broadcast, Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy looks back on his life and remembers the blessings he’s received through his family and chosen career.

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Living in the Midst of Success

With Tony Dungy
January 16, 2008
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Bob: You've seen the locker room celebrations that take place after somebody's won a big game, right?  Well, last year, when the Indianapolis Colts won the Super Bowl, there was a part of the celebration that most of us didn't get to see.  Here is Indianapolis Colts coach, Tony Dungy.

Tony: Several of the players came to me and said, "Coach, we've got to finish this the way we always do.  We're waiting to do the prayer."

 Well, the Super Bowl is so different.  There's so much coverage, the media is in there already, and people are just all over the place, and I just kind of held my hand up and said, "If you would just excuse us and turn the cameras off for three minutes, and let us finish our season the way we always do," and I think the reporters were really baffled because they thought they'd see the champagne and the celebration, and it was really our guys doing what they always do.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll find out today that there is a lot that is different about the kind of football team that Coach Tony Dungy runs.  Stay with us.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Dennis?

Dennis: Bob, today we're going to talk about the lord of the rings.

Bob: The movies or the books or …

Dennis: Neither.

Bob: Okay.

Dennis: The lord of the rings, and I happen to know a man who is here in the studio with us who has three rings, and we're going to talk about those three rings.

Bob: All right.

Dennis: Let me see your hands, Coach.

Bob: Well, he's just got one.

Dennis: Only one ring is on.

Tony: Only one ring, the most important ring.

Dennis: Where's the Super Bowl rings?

Tony: The Super Bowl rings, actually, both of them I wore for about a month right afterwards.  Everyone wants to see the, and you kind of show them off, and it's exciting, and then after that there's another challenge, so you kind of look forward to winning the next one.

Dennis: Also, you're only going to allow yourself a month to wear the ring?

Tony: That's been the history.  Now, if we win another one, maybe I'll bend that rule a little bit.

Dennis: Well, that's the voice of Coach Tony Dungy, who coached the Indianapolis Colts to the Super Bowl title, and I must mention you have another Super Bowl ring from your time with the Steelers.

Tony: Right, as a player with the Steelers in 1978 and then last year, 2006, with the Colts.

Dennis: You've written about the story of your life in a book called "Quiet Strength," and I want to tell you about reading your book, Tony.  Barbara and I had some extended time off.  We actually had a sabbatical.  We've been in ministry for 37 years, and the board of directors of FamilyLife graciously allowed us to take 75 days, Coach.  I hate to say that to a coach who works so hard year 'round, to cause you to stumble.

Tony: Ten years of vacation time.

Dennis: But I received a copy, you graciously sent me one, and I read it in about the first 48 hours of my sabbatical, and I have to tell you, it set the tone for my sabbatical and for our time together with the Lord and with one another, because your book is about your journey, and your journey of faith.

 And I do want to talk about the lord of the rings, and there are those three rings we want to talk about, but I want to take you back to a confrontation you had with Donnie Schell.

Tony: Okay, yeah.

Dennis: And how he confronted you about your lack of faith.  Because I believe the quiet strength you write about in your book is really built upon the family you came from and then some key intersections in your life.

Tony: Absolutely.

Dennis: And one of them occurred with Donnie.

Tony: Yes, sure did.  Donnie Schell was my roommate.  He was four years older than me with the Pittsburgh Steelers.  He had gotten saved through a meeting with Dr. Paul Esserman [sp] at chapel before a game – really a neat, on-fire Christian.

 So I come to the Steelers as a young rookie, 21 years old, and I get put in with this guy, and it was really life-changing for me because he was one of the first guys that I met that was on fire for the Lord, where you saw it in everything that he did.

 And he mentored me for a year and a half, and I'm listening to him, reading with him, getting into my Bible, getting in heavy discussions at night, and, all of a sudden, I had an illness coming into my second year.  I had mononucleosis, wasn't able to practice, starting to get frustrated, and he stopped me one day at training camp and said, "You know, you're professing that you believe in God, but I don't see it from your actions, I don't see it from the way you're handling this.  God is trying to find out if He's in first place in your life or your career or football or something else, and that's what this is all about."

 And I thought about that that afternoon, and that was the first time I really understood.  I said, "You know what?  You're right.  I say that God's in first place, but I don't always exhibit that," and that was a big turning point for me.

Dennis: At that point, you began to walk the talk.

Tony: I really did, and I said that if I recover from this illness, and I'm able to continue to play, I'm going to know what really is important – that it's not football, that can go at anytime, and it's really serving the Lord wherever you put me, and so if you cause me to recover, and I'm still playing, I'm going to put You first.  If I end up being someplace else, I'm going to put You first, and ever since then – I've been in football 28 years since then, but I've always remembered that – that it's really the Lord's career.

Dennis: You have a distinction at the Steelers, holding a record in the NFL that no other player holds, isn't that right?

Tony: I think I'm the last person to do it, and maybe one of the few people to do it since they started playing two platoon.  Back when they just had one-platoon football a lot of people did it, but I actually caught an interception in a game and then game back and threw an interception later on in the game in 1977.  So it hasn't been done in 30 years, and it was just one of those things that's hard to explain.  It was a big day for me.

Bob: You were a college quarterback, right?

Tony: I was a college quarterback and changed to defensive back in the pros.  My first year with Pittsburgh, I got my first interception in the old Houston Astrodome, and the game was rolling along pretty well, and then we started losing our quarterbacks, and everyone got hurt, and at the beginning of the fourth quarter, we didn't have anyone to put in.  So because I had played there in college, they put me in.

Bob: The coach said, "Get Dungy over here."

Dennis: Exactly.

Tony: And I finished the game at quarterback, and it was a big thrill.

Dennis: That wasn't the only thing that you caught in Pittsburgh, though.  Dr. John Guest introduced you to a young lady.

Tony: He surely did – a lady by the name of Lauren Harris, who was in his congregation at the time.  I was filling in, actually, for another one of our players at a father-and-son banquet, and he talked to me and said afterwards that there's a girl in this congregation I think would be perfect for you, and I tried to avoid him for about a month after that, but he chased me down, kept after me, he kept calling me.

Dennis: You were kind of shy with the opposite sex.

Tony: I was very shy at the time, and also this was a large church.  So I figured if there's 5,000 people in this church, and the girl doesn't have a boyfriend or can't find one in all these people, you know, maybe it's not that great of an opportunity.


 But as it turned out, he was exactly right.  She was really just a perfect complement to me, and we've been married 26 years.

Dennis: I want to take you back to that moment on her parents' couch in her home where you turned to her, and you were attempting a proposal.  Now, I'm watching you on the sidelines of how cool and calm and what a leader you are, Coach, but I have to tell you, in your book "Quiet Strength," when I read the story I thought, "He couldn't define the relationship.  She had no idea you were in love with her."

Tony: No, I thought I did a pretty good job, but apparently I left a few things, maybe, not quite on track but we were talking, and I thought I was myself very clear, but …

Dennis: You were talking about the ideal woman you wanted to marry …

Tony: … and what the marriage relationship should be, and how it was going to be joyous for a lifetime, and all those things.

Dennis: And she thought, in her mind, you were asking …

Tony: She thought I was just describing a hypothetical situation, I guess.


Dennis: She thought you were in love, you write in your book, with another woman and was seeking her advice.

Tony: I think she was exaggerating a little bit there but, yes, she didn't know exactly what I was saying, and I was trying to say this is what marriage should be like, and I think this is what it can be like for us, and it would be wonderful, and she didn't grasp at all immediately.

Dennis: Well, you were married and ended up with a great honeymoon story.  Bob and I would like to ask – we love to ask honeymoon stories, because as Jesus Christ was the Lord of this ring in your life, the most important one, as you said, you started out your marriage with quite an adventure.

Tony: Yes, looking back on it, we laugh at it now, but it was a tough, tough time.  We had a little difference of opinion right off the bat.  We got married in Pittsburgh, and I said we should stay there that night after the wedding, relax, just have a nice evening there, and then we could fly out to our honeymoon and go.  And Lauren's idea was she did not want to spend her wedding night in her hometown.  So she wanted to take off.

 So we flew – actually, we're going to San Francisco.  We had the wedding, we flew, stopped in Denver, changed planes, flew – by the time we got there, it was very late, and we just ran into one problem after another.  I ended up breaking the key to the car in the lock, had to wait an hour to get a replacement key.  We finally got to our hotel in San Francisco, it's about three or four in the morning Eastern time, and we just get there and get up to the 12th floor, and someone cut the power, and so all the lights went out.

 So we finally – it was just a long, long night, and, of course, I'm thinking to myself, you know, if we'd stayed in Pittsburgh, none of this would have happened.  She's thinking, "Well, if you knew how to drive a car, none of this would happen."  And it got off to a tough start, but then after two days in San Francisco, we kind of made up with each other, and then went to Hawaii from there, and it was really fun.

Dennis: Coach, as I read your book and also as I've watched your life, family is constantly emerging as one of your most important values.  You've helped give leadership to a ministry called "All Pro Dads."  You've spoken, you've written on the subject.  Why is it such a part of who you are, especially in your job, because you really pay attention to how these coaches and players are dealing with their families?

Tony: It's important because I guess I've seen both sides of the coin.  I grew up, both my parents were teachers, and they spent so much quality time in our lives.  My wife's parents were the same way.  Her dad was in real estate, and her mom was a nurse, but they were around all the time nurturing their kids.  We saw the benefits of that, our kids saw the benefits of that with both sets of grandparents around, and as I got into this job and see more and more young men come up without that – that it was just the grandmother or just the mom or just the dad, and just seeing so much of that and realizing that they did not have the benefit of that close family, that nurturing, that I had, and we've got to get back to that as a country.  I think that's so important.

Bob: The last time we sat down with you, I've never forgotten this – we asked you about the demands of coaching and how that interferes with family, and I remember you saying that you'd thought – I don't know if we'd just caught you on the right day or what, but you said, "I've wondered, maybe I'll do this a couple more years then turn it off."

 So I kind of expected after the Super Bowl win that maybe you'd say, "You know, I reached it.  That's it.  I'm going to retire."

Tony: I thought about it long and hard, and my wife and actually talked quite a bit that week leading up to the Super Bowl.  The week afterwards I talked to Jim Irsay several times afterwards, our owner, and I thought about it very seriously and decided to come back for a number of reasons.  I think the platform that the Lord has given me is a great platform now, and I want to use that for Him, but it won't be long, it really won't be another few years, I don't think.

Bob: Do you think you can step away? I mean, is it – this is so much in your blood.  You've done this …

Dennis: Well, Bob, but what he said he was going to do – he said he was going to coach junior high football.

Bob: That's right.

Tony: Well, I don't know if I'll coach junior high football, but I will do something on a volunteer basis.  One of the downsides of this is you have your schedule laid out basically from July until February, and there's nothing you can do to change it.  Labor Day, we're practicing; Thanksgiving, we're playing or practicing; Columbus Day, Christmas, New Year's, and for 27, 28 years, you have all that laid out, instead of being able to say, "You know what?  I'd like to take a day off, or I'd like to take a Thursday off here."  You don't really have one off day during the season.

 So I think my ultimate will be able to spend a little bit more time with the family, to be involved in a church setting, a Sunday school year 'round, which I haven't been able to do in 30-some years.  But also to be able to say, "You know what?  I might be able to just take this Thursday off and do something with my kids because they've got a day off school."

Dennis: I want to talk about those other two rings, the other two Super Bowl rings you have and specifically the one you just won about a year ago, and I've been looking forward to asking you this question because as I watched the celebration after the game, you were there on the podium along with the owner of the Colts, Jim Irsay, and I was astounded that both in the AFC Championship and at the Super Bowl, he made a statement – this is not going to exact, but you probably know what I'm getting ready to say, don't you?  Why don't you share with our listeners what he said, because it was powerful to me.

Tony: He said in both situations, he said this is a great setting up here, we're on this podium, we've won, we've got the national spotlight, and he said, "There's a lot of glory up here.  But, really, we want to direct the glory to the Lord," and I think that caught a lot of people by surprise, because this was our first championship, and many people were expecting a lot of things, a lot of emotion, but they weren't expecting that. 

 I know I had a chance to follow him both times, and it gave me 45 seconds to a minute to really think about what I wanted to say on this platform with 100 million people watching, and I was able to just take off on that and say, "Yes, we are very, very thankful for this win.  It was great for our organization, great for our Colts family, but we want to direct the credit to the Lord."

Dennis: In fact, after the game, there is a picture of what took place in the locker room.

Tony: A really unbelievable scene.  We also finish like that.  Normally, in every game, we come in – I come into the locker room, we gather all the players we have – what they call a "10-minute cooling off period," that you can just be with your players before the media gets in, so you can gather your thoughts and that type of thing.

 So we always talk about the game, what happened, then we say our team prayer, and then we let the media in.  Well, the Super Bowl is so different.  There is so much coverage, the media is in there already, people are just all over the place, and we're probably 45 minutes after the game, and one of the players– or several of the players came to me and said, "Coach, we've got to finish this the way we always do.  We're waiting to do the prayer."

 So we've got all these people in there, and I just kind of held my hand up and said, "If you would just excuse us and turn the cameras off and the microphones off for three minutes and let us finish our season the way we always do," and everybody did, we all took a knee, even many of the reporters in there did, and one guy kind of disregarded my wishes, and took a picture of it.  But it ended up going all over the Internet, it was in USA Today the next day, and I think the reporters were really baffled, because they thought they'd see the champagne and the celebration, and it was really our guys doing what they always do.

Dennis: The inscription under the picture in your book says, "For a brief moment, we pushed the Super Bowl trophy to the side, and we bowed and gave thanks to the God of the Universe."

Tony: Yeah, the picture was really powerful and, again, it's just a way of the Lord working.  I had asked for no cameras, and one guy took a shot, but he got the perfect shot – we're there in a group, we're all kind of huddled up, the Super Bowl trophy is in the side of the picture.  It's still visible, but it's not in the middle, it's on this crate where the oranges and the Gatorade are, and it is very symbolic that, hey, what the world sometimes thinks is so, so important, really is secondary in the long run.

Bob: Now, you say that, but you're heading headlong into another run for another one of those trophies.

Tony: Well, we sure hope so, and that's what you start every year with that being the goal, and that's why you play, that's why we play the 16 games in the playoffs, that's why our players train in the off season and lift weights and run and all those things.  But what I try to remind the guys is – my favorite passage in the Bible is, "What would it profit a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits his soul." 

 So even though it's important, it's our goal, it can't be the thing that we focus on all the time, because that trophy, someone else is going to get it next year, hopefully, we do, but if we don't, someone else is.  It's not going to guarantee you anything, it's not going to guarantee you happiness, it's not going to give you even lifelong prosperity.  It's a goal, and it brings you together as a team, but it can't be your whole focus, and that's always my message to our guys.

Bob: You've heard people who observe sport say that somebody who thinks like you do is likely not to win many of those because unless you make it the center focus, the number one thing, you just won't have the drive to get there.

Tony: I've heard that, and before we won – that was one of the criticisms of me – that I don't take it seriously enough; that I don't put enough into it to really drive people to play beyond their capacity to win those, and that's why I was probably happier than anything – the way the game turned out – with us playing against the Bears and Lovie Smith coaching the Bears, a guy who I know, and he thinks the same way and has the same ideals and same thoughts about the Lord, to get there so we could kind of show the country – it doesn't matter what you hear, it doesn't matter what people think.  Here's two Christian leaders of their teams, and it was just really, really, and honor to do it that way.

Dennis: You know, you did do it that way, and you honored Christ as you suffered setbacks and losses in previous seasons and also in winning.  There is something you handed out, I believe, to almost every team you've ever coached, and I was just looking for it here in your book, and I can't find it.  It's a piece about vision.

Tony: I can't quote it from memory, but, really, the message was we've all got to grasp the same vision, and if we have the vision of going forward, if we have the vision of going together, we can do it.  No matter how good we are as individuals, if we don't grab that same vision, we're not going to get to our goal.

Dennis: And as you go for that goal, how you go about achieving it is just as important as the goal you achieve.

Tony: It is.  And that's one thing I tell our team every year when we have our first team meeting in July when we start the season.  Our goal isn't to win a Super Bowl, but if that's all we do, if we just win, and we don't do things right, if we don't impact our community, if we don't care for each other, if we don't take care of our families, if we just win a Super Bowl, you're going to be very disappointed at the end.

 When we had our party after the game last year, I think that hit home to everybody.  Yes, we won, but look how we won, look at the fun we had, look at how we kind of lifted each other up, look at what we did for the city of Indianapolis, we did it the right way, and we made our state proud.  I think that was the thing that, sitting there, was more important to the guys than the fact that we just won.

Dennis: I'm grateful you put your story – I know you didn't want to write this book, but I'm really grateful you put that story in print, because it really does model for people what a walk of faith looks like from a very interesting career.

Bob: Well, there are obviously folks who agree with you because the book has been a New York Times bestseller, and we've got copies of it in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  If you're a football fan or know a football fan, or if you just want to read a compelling story of a real walk of faith in a challenging environment, you can get a copy of Tony Dungy's book, "Quiet Strength."

 Go to our website,, and in the middle of the home page, you'll see a red button that says "Go," and if you click that button, it will take you to an area of the site where there is more information about Coach Dungy's book.  You can order a copy of the book online, if you'd like, or if it's easier, call 1-800-FLTODAY.  That's 1-800-358-6329.  Someone on our team will make arrangements to have a copy of that book sent out to you.

 I was thinking, Dennis, about Friday night at our Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences.  One of the things we talk about is how couples need to be prepared as couples for the inevitable difficulties that will be a part of all of our lives.  We're going to face challenges and trials, and the question is, will those challenges and trials bring us together or will they push us toward isolation?  That's why we think it's so important for couples to take time regularly, get away for a weekend together and strengthen your marriage, build into your relationship.

 We have dozens of FamilyLife Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences taking place in cities all across the country this spring, and this week we're giving FamilyLife Today listeners an opportunity to register for one of these upcoming conferences at a discounted price.  You will save $60 per couple off the regular registration fee if you sign up for the conference this week and identify yourself as a FamilyLife Today listener.

 What that means is if you're registering online, you can go to our website and find out when a conference is coming to a city near where you live and get that date coordinated with your calendar and then, as you fill out the registration form, you come to a keycode box on the registration form.  Just type my name in the keycode box, type in "Bob."  We'll know you're a FamilyLife Today listener, and you will qualify for that special offer, $60 per couple off the regular registration fee.

 Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, someone on our team can answer any questions you have about the upcoming conferences, they can get your registered over the phone, and just mention you're a friend of Bob; that you listen to FamilyLife Today, and that will entitle you to the same special offer.  Now, again, it's only good this week so, today, go online or call us and get registered for one of these upcoming conferences.  Some of them are starting to fill up, and we want to make sure you can attend when the conference comes to a city near where you live.

 Again, our website is, and our toll-free number is 1-800-FLTODAY, and we hope to see you this spring at a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference.

 Well, tomorrow – you have heard people say that sports and athletics helps develop character.  We're going to find out how that has been true for Coach Tony Dungy, who joins us again tomorrow.  I hope you can be with us for that.

 I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.


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