I’m not a big sports fan. I like all things Spartan, in particular Spartan football and basketball, but that has more to do with my dad who was an avid fan, than any interest on my own part. As a student at MSU, I didn’t attend a single sporting event, preferring to use my limited funds for shows at Fairchild Theater and the Auditorium (this was before the Wharton Center). Since my dad’s death, following the Spartans has been a way to “reconnect” with him.
Before moving to Jackson County twenty-five years ago, I had never heard of Tony Dungy and even when I heard about him later, he was not on my radar. Tony is a hometown hero here in Jackson, Michigan, where he grew up and still has family. After hearing him speak on Friday at a Marriage Matters Jackson’s event, he is now one of my heroes.
Tony started his talk by referring to the many issues in the news, including police violence and racism. He then stated that he felt the most pressing issue is the breakdown of the family and the decline in moral values that comes from this. He had me there. That is precisely why I have been involved with Marriage Matters Jackson since it started in 2006.
As a church minister I had worked with those living in poverty, including migrant farmworkers and homeless individuals in my twenties, and working with food pantries later. However these didn’t address the underlying causes of poverty and other societal problems in the way that working to support families and marriages does.
Tony spoke about his career and decisions he made based on his family. Rather than go to New York or San Francisco early in his career, he went to Kansas City because he felt it would be better for his young family.
He cited lessons he had learned as a young coach which he applied to his life and family. While coaching for the Pittsburgh Steelers, he learned that his job was to bring out the best in his players, and that not only were they to be the best on the field, but also in their life and their community. Tony has applied this lesson to his own life where his family remains a top priority and where he and his wife, Lauren, give back to the community through their foundation, the Dungy Family Foundation.
He peppered his talk with Scripture references, making no apology for his beliefs. Church, his early upbringing in Jackson, and football, have all been integral parts of what has made him the man he is.
This past fall, football players were in the news for activities off the field, but not for good reasons. We’ve had scandals of abuse of women and children. These are people our children emulate as heroes.
In contrast, Tony has been married to Lauren for over thirty years, has nine children, and makes being a part of his children’s life a priority. He is not just a hometown hero, but a national hero. We need more such heroes in the NFL and all sports: Heroes who model to the next generation what it is to be men of faith and integrity, devoted husbands and fathers.
Thank you, Tony!
For more on this presentation see article on mlive, http://www.mlive.com/news/jackson/index.ssf/2015/04/tony_dungy_talks_about_33-year.html.