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Tony Dungy, coach of the defending Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts, took his team from a 10-10 halftime tie to a 41-10 win over the formidable New Orleans Saints. Yet, despite his celebrity status in the National Football League, this man will tell you that football is not the most important thing in his life. Only God holds that position.
I had the privilege of spending some time with Coach Dungy this summer as LIFE Outreach International sponsored a men's conference at Tony Evans' church in Dallas. I was inspired by his message of hope and faith and impressed by his personal humility and dedication to Jesus Christ. He immediately reminded me of another friend and football legend, Tom Landry. Though these two share a legacy of success on the football field, it's their "quiet strength" that sets them apart.
Dungy's life story (so far) is chronicled in a book by that name -- Quiet Strength. It currently sits at number one on the New York Times bestseller list, and justifiably so. The book, like the coach's life, is less about football than it is about the principles of a winning life in Jesus Christ.
Actor Denzel Washington wrote in the forward that "Coach Dungy's greatest accomplishment is that through it all, he has stayed obedient to God's will."
In addition to the natural ups and downs of life as an athlete, Dungy has faced racism, rejection and the suicide of his son, Jamie. But his unwavering faith always brought him dignity, strength and hope (and Super Bowl rings both as a player and a head coach.)
Immediately after beating the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl, CBS announcer Jim Nantz asked Dungy about the significance of being the first African-American head coach to win it all. "I'm very proud to represent African-American coaches," Dungy acknowledged, but continued by pointing out, "More than anything, [Bears coach] Lovie Smith and I, we're Christian coaches and this shows you can win doing it the Lord's way."
Dungy's witness, backed by his work ethic, touched innumerable people in a way that standard Sunday sermons may not. The picture of his life is worth more than a thousand words. While performing on the field, Coach Dungy has never forgotten his real passion. In his book, he writes:
"My purpose in life is simply to glorify God. We have to be careful that we don't let the pursuit of our life's goals, no matter how important they seem, cause us to lose sight of our purpose.
"I coach football. But the good I can do to glorify God along the way is my real purpose. I want to help people see the path to eternal life through Christ, to enjoy an abundant life now, and to fulfill their God-given purposes here."
The rewards awaiting Tony Dungy in heaven far exceed any trophies he has won, and may yet win, on this earth. While I am privileged to call him a friend, I am even more honored to call him a brother in Christ.
Author: James Robison
Word Count: 543
About the author: James Robison is the founder and president of LIFE Outreach International, a Christian media ministry and mission relief organization. He and his wife, Betty, host of the television program Life Today; He has authored numerous books, including The Absolutes: Freedom's Only Hope and True Prosperity.
Media Contact: Randy Robison, editor at jamesrobison.net
Photo available upon request. Reprint rights granted with attribution for complete, unedited article. Revisions allowed only with approval.