Thursday September 28, 2017
Hundreds of local athletes, coaches and community members had the chance to see Tony Dungy, a two-time Super Bowl champion, New York Times bestselling author, NBC sportscaster and NFL Hall of Famer last week. South Burlington Life Church’s Pastor Chuck Clark and his wife Sonia organized Coach Dungy’s visit, which was co-sponsored by the Northeast Fellowship of Christian Athletes. An enthusiastic crowd attended the main event held at South Burlington High School (SBHS) auditorium on Friday, September 22, where Dungy delivered a message of wisdom and inspiration. The Clarks will donate the proceeds from the event to the high school’s athletic department.
“This may be the only standing ovation I have ever received in New England,” he said in his opening remarks on Friday evening. The two-time Super Bowl Champion was playfully referring to his team’s rivalry with the New England Patriots. Dungy shared his history on the field and off, to a full house, about daring to lead an uncommon life. His talk was filled with lessons learned over 30 years of playing and coaching in the NFL.
Encouraging people to achieve an uncommon life, Dungy shared stories about his own childhood and the experiences that propelled him into an NFL playing and coaching career. When he faced obstacles as a child, his dad would say, “What are you going to do to make it better?” Looking back, he acknowledged that adversity shaped the man he turned out to be. “Big disappointments will be your biggest blessings in the long run,” he said.
While playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers under Coach Chuck Knoll, Dungy learned that even professional football players didn’t need to live for football. From his experiences as a player and as a coach, he cultivated a responsible, family-oriented approach to coaching the game of football. Led by his faith, his coaching practice focused on treating people with love, respect and compassion. As some coaches at all levels of athletics feel the need to degrade, humiliate, and demean athletes in order to teach them life lessons, Dungy’s contrary style proved to be more effective as his NFL Hall of Fame resume suggests. He also set an example for athletes and coaches at all levels of athletics. “I want to encourage young people,” he said. To him, coaching, even in the NFL, was about helping people learn to live life to the fullest.
Dungy met with student athletes at SBHS on Friday before speaking at the community event later that evening. He also spoke at a student assembly at Champlain Valley Union High School on Friday, and met with over 100 local coaches at Rice Memorial High School on Saturday.
His message to high school students is based on what his mom taught him about doing things the right way. “Who you are is more important than what you do,” he said.
Reflecting on Dungy’s message, SBHS Activities Director Michael Jabour said, “Tony encouraged our student athletes to be the best person they can be. He talked about the importance of education, leadership and unity. He inspired us all.”
SOURCE: Drew Gordon, Correspondent