Tony Dungy Talking Leadership at IUPUI

This past Thursday, an Indianapolis sports icon returned to the Circle City to talk a little football and a lot about leadership, uncommon leadership to be precise.

Former Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy set aside some time from an already busy schedule of speaking engagements, to give a free talk to students, faculty and staff of IUPUI. Dungy’s message for all in attendance was to encourage these educators and future community leaders to take an active role in leadership opportunities. The event was held at the University Place Hotel Conference Center and was hosted by the IUPUI Office of External Affairs.

With only 300 or so people in attendance, the setting was intimate and personal. These gave all in attendance the feeling that they were not just a face in the crowd, but rather, an integral part of the day’s event. Before the man who brought the first Super Bowl Championship to Indy took the stage, he was introduced by his good friend, and IUPUI Men’s Basketball Coach, Ron Hunter.

Most in attendance seemed a bit nervous before the lights dimmed; after all, Coach Dungy is practically royalty in Indianapolis society. However, before long, Hunter set the tone for the afternoon by telling a few jokes and funny stories about his first few interactions with Dungy. He set the crowd at ease by retelling how Dungy had once restricted Hunter from entering the Colts practice facility after the IUPUI threw an errant pass that hit an unsuspecting Peyton Manning in the chest.

There are times in life when gaining such a personal account of an individual can deter from the positive view in which they were once held. Tony Dungy is not one of these people. For all the graciousness he has shown, both in victory and defeat, throughout the years, he was that and more in Thursday. He is one of only a few premiere athletes and/or coaches that should be applauded more for what he has done off of the field than what he has done on it.

Video of former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy speaking to students, faculty and staff at IUPUI about what it means to be a leader.


Coach Dungy started off by talking about his own personal struggles and choices to become a leader. From his days as a college football player at the University of Minnesota, all the way up to being a husband, father and NFL head football coach trying to make time for all things important in his life, Dungy stressed that it could not just be about serving yourself. He also spoke of how having a strong faith was a key ingredient in making all things possible.

After his own opening remarks, Dungy sat down and answered questions from the students in attendance. One of the first questions he fielded was about responding to adversity in life.

Dungy replied,”Faith is always something you think you have but you never know until it is tested. For the first twenty-four years of my life all was going great, but when I had some disappointments, when I got cut and my NFL career was over and I had to find a real job rather than just playing football…it was then that I had to figure out how to respond to this.”

To bring it full-circle to his point on being a leader,” Great leadership, that is, to me where it is. It’s in overcoming disappointments because nothing ever goes smoothly, nothing ever goes one hundred percent the way you think it’s going to go. How do you respond when it doesn’t quite workout that’t the true test of a leader,” Dungy said.

A student then asked how one goes about balancing such a busy life and still contributing equally to all aspects Coach Dungy said,”It’s the toughest thing to have to do. All of us want to be the very best that we can be at everything we do and you take a job ,whatever it is,in order to do that job well, you have to put a lot of energy, you have to put a lot of time, you have to put a lot of emotion into being that uncommon person who can handle it all.”

Being that Tony Dungy first and foremost has made a name for himself in the world of sports, someone asked him how athletes can be leaders and have a positive impact on the world around them.

“It’s amazing what you can do if you’re committed to helping make your community a little bit better of a place to live and that was my challenge to our players,” he said. “Yes, we wanted to win, we wanted to bring the city the best team we could be, But if thats all we do we wouldn’t be remembered for a long time…you do something significant, you help someone’s life they are going to remember that forever, and that is more important in the long run.”

Dungy closed out the event by delighting the crowd in telling them that, while he doesn’t intend to ever get back into coaching football, if he were to do so, the first job he would take would be to coach the IUPUI football team.

To let you know how improbable this would be, IUPUI hasn’t had a football team since 1965. To put a positive spin on the situation, that is one heck of an undefeated streak the Jaguars have got going.

Tony Dungy was the head football coach of the Indianapolis Colts from 2002 until 2008. He retired with a record of 85-27 during the regular season with the Colts. He was the Colts head coach when the team won its Super Bowl title in 2006. Coach Dungy is also the author of three best-selling books. His memoir, Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices, and Priorities of a Winning Life, was released on July 10, 2007, and reached #1 on the New York Times Best Sellers List. His second book, Uncommon: Finding Your Path to Significance was released February 17, 2009, and reached as high as #2 on the NYT Best Sellers List. His third book is a 24-page children’s book titled You Can Do It.

Coach Dungy is very active in many charitable and service organizations such as All-Pro Dad, which offers men with children ways to be an active and positive influence in the lives of their children. These are just a few of the reasons that Tony Dungy is one of the most famous people in Indianapolis.

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