Legendary NFL coach Tony says one of the reasons he believes God has him working as a sports analyst is “to be the voice” for Christian players who want to speak about their faith.
It’s also led him to begin authoring children’s books to reach a whole new generation with inspirational stories through characters that look like their communities.
Both efforts are empowering, and connected.
Dungy, an analyst on NBC’s “Football Night in America,”
spoke about football and comments he made this past Super Bowl after he interviewed Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles.
“He told me he felt that God had him on that Philadelphia Eagles team for a reason,” Dungy explained. “He had been the backup quarterback, now he was starting in the Super Bowl and he felt very confident he was going to have a good game because he believed God had him there for that purpose.”
Dungy shared their conversation with viewers and, to his surprise, received some backlash.
“A lot of people said, ‘Well, you shouldn’t bring religion into it,’ and I was just reporting the facts,” said Dungy. “But believe it or not, I got much more support than I did heat. So many people wrote in and said, ‘Hey, I’m glad that you said and reported on exactly what he said and I’m glad you talked about his faith in Christ.'”
In fact, Dungy believes that’s why God has him at NBC.
“I feel like that’s one of the reasons God has me at NBC, to be the voice for some of these Christian athletes who want to say those things,” he explained.
Dungy says Christian athletes should be free to talk about their faith in the same way other athletes speak about issues that are important to them.
“I think people have to understand that Christian athletes have the same ability to espouse their views as anyone else has and if we ask them a question about, what is allowing them to play well, and they say, ‘It’s my faith in Christ’ or ‘It’s the Holy Spirit,’ we can’t hold that in and we can’t begrudge them of that.”
Dungy is a former NFL player himself and was the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts when they won the 2007 Super Bowl.
One of the ways Dungy expresses his own personal beliefs is through authoring several books.
He and his wife Lauren have written a set of children’s books titled, “Austin Plays Fair” and “Maria Finds Courage” that target children from kindergarten to the fourth grade.
Dungy says the seed was planed when he coached the Bucs. The coaches and players wives would read to low income elementary schools in Tampa.
“Lauren said they were really struggling to find the right stuff to read. They wanted to have diverse characters because they were reading in these city schools. They wanted characters that the kids could look at who looked like them. And they wanted to have families, life lessons.”
“As we looked around, there really wasn’t a lot. And we thought it would be nice to do that. That’s how we got started.”
This is the second series for the Dungys and it’s different from their first efforts. “We decided to take a team so we could incorporate a lot of kids from a lot of different backgrounds and have the adults be the coaches and parents. These are basically kids who come up with problems, whether it’s not wanting to try out another sport, feeling like it’s hard to make new teammates, honesty, playing fair. Is it good to be a teammate by going along with something that’s not right or would it be a better teammate if he said ‘no we don’t do that?”
Dungy says he and his wife are excited about the latest project and that they seek topics that could spur discussion.
Whether it’s kids in school or players on the field, Tony Dungy wants both to feel the freedom to express their hearts and souls without fear.
“In one of the books, you have to get stretched out of your comfort zone, and you do feel uncomfortable and uneasy and nervous,” he says.
And that’s the first step in finding your voice on or off the field.
–Metro Voice and wire services