Q&A: Tony Dungy

The NFL icon on his career and what it takes to become a champion

With two Super Bowl rings and a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Tony Dungy is an NFL legend. Kicking off his career as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dungy later transitioned to coaching, reinvigorating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the ‘90s and leading the Indianapolis Colts to win Super Bowl XLI. Since his 2008 retirement, Dungy has been a fixture on NBC’s Sunday Night Football, where he brings insight to the games.

He’s also the author of two New York Times bestselling books. And as the father of 10 children, it makes sense that he’d turn his writing skills to pen books for a younger crowd. Recently, Dungy teamed up with his wife Lauren to pen sports-related children’s books. Dungy spoke to Furthermore about what makes a champion, what he does with his Super Bowl rings, and what he hopes his latest reads will do for kids.

Photo: Getty Images

What has been your proudest professional moment so far?

Winning the Super Bowl was right up there, but coming to Tampa Bay (as coach in 1996) and turning the Buccaneers from a team people weren’t fired up about to selling out the stadium was incredible. I’m also proud of people on my staff who go on to be successful.

What are some qualities true champions share?

The first thing any champion has to have is pride. You have to have a will to succeed. The second thing is the ability to sacrifice; sacrificing your time to be the very best and sacrificing your ego for the good of a team. When I played with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the ‘70s, we had nine guys go to the Hall of Fame. Every man on that team put the team above himself.

Do you ever wish you were back in the thick of it calling the shots as coach?

We’re usually in a studio, but when we’re in a stadium that’s when I almost have the urge to go back. But so far it hasn’t happened. Right now I’m really satisfied being able to have the family time I enjoy and still stay involved in football.

You’ve played football, you’ve coached football, and now you’re on TV talking about football. Which has been the most fun?

Playing, by far. It was the most fun being out there, helping your team win the game, hearing the roar of the crowd, and knowing you’ve achieved something. However, the most satisfying role has been coaching. When we won Super Bowl XLI and we were on the victory podium, I saw the team, our families, and all of the Colts’ fans cheering. That’s when I realized that it’s really something special to be part of something for everyone.

Where do you keep your two Super Bowl rings?

I actually don’t wear them much. When I got my first one playing for the Steelers (in 1979), that was the third one the team had gotten. They said, “Wear them for a week and show it to your friends and family, but then put it away because we have more work to do to win another one.” That’s been my mentality since. When we won it in Indianapolis two decades later, I told my team the same thing.

How did your children’s book series come about?

When I was coaching, my wife would read to elementary school students in the inner city areas of Indianapolis. She loved it and had a great connection with the kids. But she had a problem finding stories that had life lessons and diverse characters that the kids could relate to. So we set out to write a series of books that talk about sacrifice, honor, integrity, and trying new things with a diverse crew of characters. It’s gratifying when I hear from people who read the books and say, “My son was going through this exact thing.”