Tony Dungy Invokes Football Ancestors In Hall Of Fame Speech

On Saturday, August 6, the Pro Football Hall of Fame welcomed nine gridiron gladiators into its hallowed ranks. Former Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy was joined by former Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison, St. Louis offensive lineman Orlando Pace, Green Bay Packers QB Brett Favre, Carolina Panthers linebacker Kevin Greene, Oakland Raiders QB Ken “The Snake” Stabler, former player and coach Richard “Dick” Stanfel, and former San Francisco 49ers owner Edward J. DeBartolo Jr.

Dungy combined with Peyton Manning to win Super Bowl XL for the Colts, its second championship in the modern era, and made history in doing so.

On Saturday, Dungy paid homage Black coaches who paved the way for him during his induction speech.

Willie Brown, Buck Buchanan, Earnel Durden, Bob Ledbetter, Elijah Pitts, Jimmy Raye, Johnny Roland, Al Tabor, Lionel Taylor and Allan Webb, Dungy said.

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(Photo Credit: USA Today)

Those names might not be familiar to you, but those were the African-American assistant coaches in the NFL in 1977, my first year in the league, Dungy continued. It was a small group of men, just 10 of them, if you can believe that, African-American assistant coaches in the NFL. Many of them never got the chance to move up the coaching ladder like I did, but they were so important to the progress of this league.

We were, in the 80s, trying to decide if we could make a career in coaching or not. Without those 10 coaches laying the groundwork, the league would not have the 200-plus minority assistant coaches it has today. And we would not have had Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy coaching against each other in Super Bowl XLI, Dungy continued. “So tonight as I join Fritz Pollard as the second African-American coach in the Hall of Fame, I feel like Im representing those 10 men and all the African-American coaches who came before me and paved the way. And I thank them very, very much.”

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Dungy initially honed his player-friendly demeanor while utilizing his faith to impart sage wisdom as a defensive backs coach and coordinator with the Pittsburgh Steelers, defensive backs coach for the Kansas City Chiefs, and as defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings before building a championship defense and perfecting the Tampa 2 defense, which used four lineman, three linebackers and four defensive backs.

This strategy was used to prevent teams from getting yardage through the air and applied pressure on the quarterback in equal measure. It would be copied throughout the league.

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Dungy and his friend Lovie Smith in Chicago were the first Black coaches to lead their respective teams to the Super Bowl, and Dungy would be the first Black coach to win a championship ring as well with his victory over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI.

Many commentators believe Dungy’s defensive strategies and personnel choice left behind after his dismissal in 2001 were the foundation upon which former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden was able to win Super Bowl XXXVII in 2002.

His book Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices, and Priorities of a Winning Life dropped in August 2007 and was the first NFL-related book to claim the No. 1 spot, according to the publisher.

He is the second Black coach, behind legendary pioneer Fritz Pollard, to be elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He ranks 22nd all-time among NFL coaches with 139 wins and leads all Black coaches in that category.

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