The quiet strength and outspoken faith of Tony Dungy.
Those who know the National Football League will know of Tony Dungy, the coach of the Indianapolis Colts. One of the league’s premier and most respected coaches, Dungy is a Christian and one who is outspoken about his faith. Two events in the past two years have put him in the spotlight: the death of his son in 2006 and the Colts’ Superbowl victory in 2007. Anyone who has read about Dungy or observed him on the sidelines will affirm that Quiet Strength is a perfect title for his memoir–a book that has reached as high as the top spot on the New York Times list of bestsellers, becoming the first NFL-related book to hold that honor.
Born in Michigan into a serious and scholarly family, Dungy was an excellent athlete who excelled in both basketball and football. Though he was most at home on the basketball court, it was on the gridiron that he made his mark in high school and college. He also played a couple of seasons in the NFL before turning to coaching. He spent fifteen years in a variety of assistant coaching positions before finally taking on the responsibility of head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After five years at that position in which he steered the team from perpetual losers to consistent winners, he accepted an invitation to become head coach of the Colts, a position he holds to this day. Since accepting the position he has led the Colts to become one of the most dominating teams in the league.
Dungy is an intensely private person and he makes no apologies for giving very little time in this memoir to discussions of his family (with the notable exception of his son James). He has sought to shelter his family, allowing his children to live as normal a family as possible despite growing up the children of an NFL coach. He maintains that silence in this book. He does, though, dwell for a while on the death of his son. In 2006, in the midst of a dominating season by the Colts, Dungy’s son James took his own life at the age of eighteen. Dungy discusses the effects of this tragedy on his life and on his family, dealing honestly and biblically with the pain and suffering James’ death brought to him.
Anyone reading this book will be struck by the depth and seriousness of Dungy’s faith. It is clear that he has thought deeply about issues, about theology, and that he has learned from wise spiritual mentors. His faith has been tried and tested through difficult circumstances and through personal tragedy. Dungy studies his way through the Bible once every year, doing so with some of his colleagues, and this attention to Scripture is evident in what he writes. He also invests heavily in the lives of his players challenging them with Scripture and challenging them to be wise and productive members of society. He is active in many ministries and organizations and is constantly investing himself in other people’s lives. He uses his fame, as much as he can, to bring glory to God.
I have read several NFL biographies, but none so serious, none so biblical as Quiet Strength. While so many athletes claim to be Christians, few appear to show that faith and express that faith as clearly and biblically as Dungy. He is an inspiration to many and for good reason. This is a fascinating memoir and one I enjoyed from cover to cover. My lasting impression is not of Dungy’s life as a football player and coach, but of his life as a Christian. And I know this is just as he wants it.