Dungy spends day before big game inspiring fathers to be better dads Print
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Saturday, 03 November 2007 11:29
NFL Headline News

 INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Tony Dungy spent Saturday inside a room at the Colts' complex.
He wasn't breaking down tapes of the New England Patriots. He wasn't putting the final touches on plans for Sunday's much-hyped game of the year.
He was signing autographs and helping about 1,500 fathers and children enjoy the All Pro Dad Kids Experience. The program is designed to assist dads in finding balance between family and work.
``I think anybody who works and wants to be good at what they do, spends a lot of time and energy at work, and coaches are the same way,'' Dungy said. ``It's really a matter of how we can maximize that time with our families.''
In the pressurized environment of the NFL, success is usually defined by wins and losses. Dungy has never viewed it that way. Unlike coaches who log long hours and sometimes sleep in their offices, if they sleep at all, Dungy insists his players and coaches go home at night to their families.
Dungy believes so firmly in the philosophy he learned from Hall of Fame coach Chuck Noll in Pittsburgh that he often instructs players and coaches to put their family first no matter the stakes or the public perception.
And on the busiest week last season, leading to the most important game, Dungy did just that.
``At the Super Bowl, I went over one day to the NFL Experience, and people were kind of looking a little funny at me, kind of like 'Shouldn't you be doing something else?' `` he said. ``When you're winning, people say it's OK to do these things, but when you're losing, people say that's the reason you're losing.''
Dungy knows better and has been insulated from some of those complaints because of his success. It helps to have won a Super Bowl and be coach of the second team in league history off to a third straight 7-0 start.
But this week, Dungy finds himself talking about the importance of family at a time it has become a sad topic in football. On Thursday, two sons of Eagles coach Andy Reid were sentenced for drug and gun crimes.
Indianapolis receivers coach Clyde Christensen broke into the league as a tight ends coach in Tampa Bay at the same time Reid was coaching tight ends in Green Bay. Like Dungy, Christensen is heavily involved with the All Pro Dad program.
``I knew Andy pretty well and he was a great man and a family guy, but what we have to remember is that the end of the story has not been written yet,'' Christensen said. ``So you offer him and his family prayers. I don't know any father who hasn't had speed bumps in life, and I'd like to meet the father who hasn't.''
Dungy, most certainly, has had his struggles. In December 2005, his 18-year-old son, James, committed suicide. He said he spoke with Reid earlier this year to offer support.
Still, Dungy believes whenever the priorities of coaches or players lean too heavily toward work, they need confidants to help them regain perspective.
``It's a hard thing to do, and I think it's important because everyone, including me, needs people like that to keep an eye on what you're doing,'' he said. ``I've got guys that do that and I think everybody needs those people.''
It's not just coaches that feel pressure to succeed.
Punter Hunter Smith, now in his ninth NFL season and another participant Saturday, has seen what can happen when coaches and players make football their central focus and become estranged from their families.
``That gets kind of scary because it's a pattern of behavior that multiplies, and it's hard to get that intimacy back again,'' he said. ``You know it's great to win championships and be successful but not at the expense of your family.''
Dungy, clearly, has interests outside work. He wrote a best-selling book about his life and football. He serves on the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation. Even on the toughest week so far this season, he carved out three hours to influence fathers.
On Sunday, Dungy will walk onto the RCA Dome turf as he always does with his son, Eric, hoping to keep the Colts unbeaten.
But win or lose, Dungy will be downtown Monday morning presenting his first Presidential Volunteer Service Awards before heading back to work and then home.
``Everybody's vulnerable whether you're an NFL coach or anyone else,'' he said. ``I think you have to try to set priorities and decide what's important. It's important to work and do really well, but I think you can do it in a manner where you say 'Every Thursday we're doing this or every Friday we're doing that.''
 

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