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TAMPA — Tony Dungy delivered what Brady Hoke called a “powerful” message.
But Hoke, the second-year Michigan football coach, wouldn’t initially divulge what the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach discussed with the No. 19 Wolverines five days before the Outback Bowl against No. 11 South Carolina.
While Hoke was tight-lipped, Michigan’s players opened up about some of the themes Dungy proffered Thursday morning before meetings and a practice at Tampa’s Jesuit High School.
“Don’t be ordinary,” linebacker Jake Ryan said. “Be your own person. Start something yourself and come through with it.”
Added linebacker Desmond Morgan: “He talked a lot about leadership, about life outside of football, and he got some very important messages across there that I definitely took to heart and I’ll take on through life.”
Dungy is a former NFL player who coached the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1996 to 2001, then coached the Indianapolis Colts from 2002 to 2008, leading the Colts to a Super Bowl championship in February, 2007.
Dungy retired from coaching in 2008 and is currently a studio analyst for NBC’s Football Night In America, as well as the national spokesperson for All Pro Dad, a Tampa-based empowerment organization for fatherhood.
“When you have a resource who understands about the game and preparing men for life, it’s an advantage having him come in,” Hoke said.
Dungy has also written several books, including Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices and Priorities of A Winning Life and Uncommon: Finding Your Path to Significance.
Released in 2007, Quiet Strength became a New York Times bestseller, a tome in which Dungy wrote about the principles that have guided him and the path he took to becoming an adult, including a chapter about the death of his son James, who committed suicide in the winter of 2005.
Still, Dungy said that he was reluctant to initially write the book.
“In 2004 I had lunch with my good friend [and co-author] Nathan Whitaker in Indianapolis,” Dungy wrote in the book’s introduction, “and we talked about doing a book that would be more about life than about football. Could I see how such a book could help others? Yes. But still my answer was no.
“And then my team, the Indianapolis Colts, won Super Bowl XLI … still no.”
What changed Dungy’s mind was the outpouring of communication following the Colts’ Super Bowl win over the Chicago Bears, as well as the universal themes during the title run that resonated through football fans and non-football fans.
“Really, the thing with Tony Dungy is that he puts everything into perspective,” Michigan defensive end Craig Roh said. “Football, it really is just a game. It’s a platform to praise God, to show Jesus Christ through the way you play and if you get too wrapped up in achievements and whatnot, it will ultimately fail you. There are those who are at the top, the very tip-top, and they’re still not satisfied.
“So, ultimately, it’s serving people, the people around you rather than being obsessed with achievement. That’s ultimately the most important thing.”
Defensive back Raymon Taylor took a secular perspective when discussing Dungy’s meeting with the Wolverines, arranged by Michigan associate director of public and media relations Justin Dickens, who worked for the Colts for seven seasons.
“He told the team to have motivation, to have courage and to be better people, and whatever you want in life, you have to work for it,” Taylor said. “He’s a great guy, and he coached in the NFL, one of my dreams, so I was happy to see him. Everyone was happy to see him. We really appreciated it, for coming to speak to us and taking his time out of his busy schedule to come see us.”
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.