In his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech on Saturday, retired NFL coach Tony Dungy talked about God’s influence in his life, saying that “my mom taught us as a Christian, your character, your integrity and how you honor God were so much more important than your job title."
He referenced Matthew 16:26, calling it “one of her favorite Bible verses: 'What would it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?'
"And I know that she's happy to know that her son never forgot that verse," Dungy said.
Dungy highlighted three instances in his life where he said “the Lord was using disappointment to help me grow.”
In “one example of God’s plans being better than our plans,” Dungy said he went undrafted in 1977 as a quarterback out of the University of Minnesota, but was eventually signed as a free agent by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
After two years with the Steelers, he “experienced another disappointment” in getting traded to the San Francisco 49ers and then to the New York Giants. By 1980, his playing career was over.
Dungy then turned to coaching, and was named head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1996. He lost his job after a playoff loss after the 2001 season, which he called a “painful disappointment” that “God used to lead me to a blessing.”
He went on to coach the Indianapolis Colts and their star quarterback, Peyton Manning, from 2002 to 2008, and became the first African-American head coach to win a Super Bowl in 2007. He retired after the 2008 season.
With Saturday's induction, Dungy became the first black head coach elected to the NFL Hall of Fame.
In 1977, he said, there were just 10 black assistant coaches in the NFL, all of whom “were so important to the progress of this league.
“Those men were like my dad. They didn’t complain about the lack of opportunities. They found ways to make the situation better,” he said. “I feel like I’m 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.”
Dungy ended his speech by crediting God for his success. “The Lord has led me on a wonderful journey through 31 years in the NFL, through some temporary disappointments to some incredible joys,” he said.