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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Anecdotes about son James Dungy provide fuller picture of Tony Dungy's loss

Commentary: Gary Shelton

LUTZ, Fla. -- Tony Dungy approached the lectern with a small smile. He said he was happy to be there. He opened with a joke about the preacher's verbosity.
Considering the body of Dungy's eldest son lay a few feet in front of him, it seemed Dungy was holding up better than his friends had feared.
Then Dungy's voice cracked, leaving him with a sound that was raw and wounded, and his face was so twisted it was possible to see the pain underneath. He stepped back, dabbing at hollow eyes with tissue, trying to gather himself before he could continue.
For 20 minutes, Dungy talked about faith and hope and loss, and several times, the emotions would visibly wash over him. Each time, he would step back, and the audience at Idlewild Baptist Church would applaud, as if to allow him time to overcome his emotions. Each time, Dungy would return to the microphone, trying to comfort those who came to comfort him.
How does a man find such strength? How does he share an agony so private with his public? How does he use faith as an answer when there are so many unanswered questions?
A man buried his son Tuesday, only five days after his death and only 18 years after his birth. A husband put his arm around his wife. A father embraced his other four children.
Away from the illusion of a game, away from the celebrity of his job, it is as simple as that. For the past week, that is who Dungy has been to the Tampa Bay community. It hardly matters that he is the coach of the Indianapolis Colts, or that he used to be the coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, except that is how most of us came to know him.
Most of the 2,000 or so mourners who entered Idlewild were there because of Dungy's character, because most around here have a story or two about a decent man who has suffered an unimaginable loss. He is one of us, and for most of a week, those who live in the Tampa Bay area have wanted to put an arm around Dungy's shoulder.
There were no answers to what apparently drives a young man to suicide. There were only answers to why so many people miss Jamie Dungy so much.
He was a mama's boy. He loved the color pink and chicken quesadillas and put ketchup on almost everything. He liked stray dogs and old friends and practical jokes.
Dungy told the story about when Jamie was 7 and his father worked for the Minnesota Vikings. A player named Vencie Glenn had given Jamie a hat, and suddenly, Vencie, No. 25, was his buddy. The next year, the Vikings traded Glenn to the Giants.
On the first day of camp, Dungy saw his son in the dining room after the morning practice. Jamie seemed unhappy, and his father asked why. Jamie said he had followed No. 25 around all day, calling out his name, and Vencie ignored him.
"Son, that wasn't Vencie Glenn," Tony said. "That was Alfred Jackson."
McKay told one about Jamie being steamrolled by former Bucs quarterback Eric Zeier on the sideline. Jamie was looking away from the play when he glanced up at the scoreboard and saw the play coming toward him. He curled up just as Zeier and others plowed into him.
Pastor Jeffery Singletary told one about the fishing trip when a storm quickly developed. Most in the party were praying, Singletary said, when he heard the beep-beep of Jamie's video game. He also heard Jamie ask his father if it things were going to be all right.
"Things are going to be fine," Singletary remembers Tony saying.
In one of their final telephone conversations, Jamie told Tony the Colts were going to the Super Bowl, and he wanted to know if he could be on the sideline. Tony warned him about the difficulty of getting there, but yes, he said, there would be a spot for him on the sideline.
Together, the stories weave a more complete picture of Jamie Dungy. He quoted scripture. He was a polite kid.
"If you were nice to Jamie, you were his friend," Dungy said. "The other way was to look like you needed a friend."
The more you heard, the bigger the questions became about Jamie's final days. Was his pain deeper than most teenagers? Was his ability to cope with it less? We will never know.
Dungy said his son was searching for who that person was inside of him, who he was going to be.
"As he made that search, I knew he was never going to leave that compassionate, friendly, loyal, heartfelt roots," Dungy said. "But like a lot of teenage boys, I think he was hit with messages that maybe that's not the way boys are supposed to be. Like most of us, I think he went through a time as a teenager he wasn't sure his parents always had the best advice, that we always had his best interest at heart.
"My daughter Tiara said it best. She said, 'I just wish he could have made it to 20, because when you're 17 or 18, a lot of things your parents tell you don't make sense. At 20, they start to make sense again. I just wish he would have made it.' "
Again, Dungy's voice quaked. Again, he paused. Again, the audience applauded.
For most of Tampa Bay, Dungy quit being a football coach a long time ago. Instead, he was a neighbor, a man of grace and dignity.
Today, it would be nice if he could find a little peace.
Jamie, too.

Gary Shelton is a columnist for the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times.

Owners approve Super Bowl for Kansas City

NFL.com wire reports
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Nov. 16, 2005) -- NFL owners voted to tentatively award Kansas City a Super Bowl, largely as a tribute to owner Lamar Hunt, who gave the game its name.

It comes with one giant string attached: improvements to Arrowhead Stadium, including a rolling roof to keep out the February cold. The team estimates the cost of the roof alone at $100 million to $200 million -- and that's not counting $300 million or so the Chiefs say they need in stadium upgrades.

The approval is for a 10-year window, starting in 2011, but Hunt said the most likely prospects would be for the 49th or 51st Super Bowl, after the 2014 or 2016 seasons.

"This is a very happy day, and in some respects a surprising day," he said at a news conference after the second day of the owners' two-day fall meeting adjourned. "This is something our organization has talked about for a number of years."

The team is now in lease negotiations with Jackson County and hopes to have a sales tax issue on the April ballot for Kansas City residents who live in the county. Last year, a bi-state sales tax proposal, for stadium improvements and arts in the area, failed to gain approval.

The Kansas City Royals, whose Kauffman Stadium sits across a parking lot from Arrowhead, would also have benefited from that tax.

The Chiefs, and other backers of stadium renovations, hope the prospect of landing an event with an estimated $400 million economic impact will provide enough reason to vote "yes" this time.

"The tremendous benefit to Kansas City, both in economic terms and prestige, are beyond calculation," Mayor Kay Barnes said in a written statement.

Jack Steadman, the Chiefs' vice chairman, said lease talks were to resume Nov. 17 and that he hoped they would be completed by December. He said the Chiefs would not specify their financial commitment to the project until negotiations were completed.

Hunt, a founding owner in the American Football League, gave the Super Bowl its name after it began simply as a matchup between the AFL and NFL champions.

"This decision is clearly an indication of the tremendous support the Chiefs have had from their fans in this area, and also the role of Lamar Hunt in the creation of the NFL today and the history of professional football."

Only three Super Bowls have been awarded to cold-weather cities. Detroit will host its second Super Bowl in February, and Minneapolis has hosted one.

"I think a one-off is a correct decision," Hunt said. "My request was for one game, in a 10-year window."

A rolling roof, which could be moved to cover either stadium, was part of the original plans for the Truman Sports Complex. It was designed only to keep out the rain, however.

Steadman said the new plan would allow panels to be lowered from the roof, to provide for a heated interior in cold weather.

"This is a new idea for an old concept," he said.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Mike Silver on Tony Dungy

My longtime friend Sports Illustrated Senior Writer Michael Silver wrote a very good and reflective column on Indianpolis Colts' Coach Tony Dungy in the wake of the passing of his son James. Most of his work is here, and the entire column can be read at CNNSI.Com with a click on the title of this post.

Leaning on faith
Dungy will reach deep inside as he mourns for son
Michael Silver

Because Tony Dungy is such an inspirational man, because nearly everyone who meets can't help but admire him, it's tempting to believe that he's capable of overcoming any horrific circumstance, even the most tragic occurrence imaginable.

As Dungy and his tight-knit family cope with the death of his 18-year-old son, James, who died of an apparent suicide early Thursday morning, the pain and grief, undoubtedly, will be overwhelming. That this awful experience will play out publicly makes Dungy's burden seem unfathomable.

Yet if anyone in pro football is capable of carrying on, in the near- and long-term, it's this deeply religious, inherently decent man.

"The thing that will get him through this is the same thing that has gotten him through all of the hard times -- losing his mother, and then his father," said Jets coach Herm Edwards, who grew close to Dungy while working on his staff in Tampa Bay. "His faith is what will get him through, somehow. But it's so, so tough."

I called Edwards on Thursday evening looking, I guess, for some sense of comfort. Ostensibly, as a journalist, I wanted to get his reaction, but every question I asked or considered asking seemed hopelessly forced, trite or inappropriate.

Earlier, I had spoken briefly with one of Dungy's former players in Tampa, Cleveland Browns quarterback Trent Dilfer, who I knew would be taking this news as hard as anyone in the NFL. Two years and eight months ago, at a memorial service for his 5-year-old son, Trevin, Dilfer delivered an amazingly poised, unplanned speech that brought 2,000 attendees to tears. Since then he and his wife, Cass, have displayed strength and grace on a daily basis, but that doesn't mean the pain is gone, or will ever disappear.

Unlike Dilfer, who endured months of soul-searching before deciding to return to football, Dungy's nightmare coincides with the stretch run of what has thus far been a magical season. If he returns to guide the Colts through the playoffs, and possibly the Super Bowl, Dungy will feel the coalesced support of a sports-watching nation.

Yet at some point the insanity of the playoff run will fade, and he and his wife, Lauren, will continue to be tested in ways most of us, thankfully, cannot imagine. That's when he'll draw on 51 years of sincere, principled living and figure out some way to endure.

Understand that Dungy, more than anyone I've met in his profession, has put family and faith above football on the most basic of levels. Not only did he help launch All-Pro Dad, later becoming the nonprofit organization's national spokesman, but he also made a point of interacting with his children, eschewing the sleep-at-the-office madness to which most of his peers have succumbed...

Friday, December 23, 2005

Tony Dungy - A great man who will prevail

I've never met Indianapolis Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy, but I feel like he's my brother. I have always been a fan. When I was invited to the Octagon party at the Houston Super Bowl, I has hoped Dungy, an Octagon client, would be there. I had a new defensive front idea I wanted to share with him. So, paper and diagram in hand, I went. Unfortunately, he didn't come to the event. I was sad, but eventually had a good time.

Still, I felt it was less without the attendance of the most respected coach in the NFL, and someone America seems to have adopted.

From one perspective, since we share what some call the "Black Experience" in America, I suppose he is. So, I, like others and really regardless of color, root for Tony.

We cheer for him not just because of his success, and how it contributes to the erosion of social racism, but because we like the man he is: steady, determined, faithful -- decent. To me Tony is untouchable. I couldn't -- and still can't -- understand why the Tampa Bay Bucaneers let go of this man. But he landed in a better place: Indy.

His son, James Dungy, in the best place one can be: Heaven. The Lord only knows what was happening to him in the last moments of his life. But the Lord will also take care of him. God will take care of Tony, too.

No, Tony's team will not go undefeated. The Colts will be in the playoffs with home field advantage, and a new resolve, as if they didn't have one already. And now it seems as if everyone in sports is rooting for them and him. They deserve it. Tony deserves it.

But even if it doesn't happen that he is able to lift the Vince Lombardi trophy in February 2006, Tony Dungy will always be high on the mantle of great people in sports and in life.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

NFL"Tabulating Error" Causes Colts Tackle Tarik Glenn to be removed from Pro Bowl rouster

This is terrible, and the error should be explained. Moreover, one would think the numbers would be checked before the rouster assignments were made!

NFL.com wire reports

INDIANAPOLIS (Dec. 21, 2005) -- Tony Dungy started by congratulating the Indianapolis Colts chosen to the Pro Bowl. Several hours later, he had the grim task of retracting left tackle Tarik Glenn's name from that list.

The confusing saga overshadowed what should have been a celebration: Seven Colts were voted to the Pro Bowl, the most of any NFL team and the franchise's best showing since it sent eight players in 1971. Three defensive players also made the roster, the Colts' highest total since '71.

But it was the recount that angered Dungy.

"I'm happy with the guys who made it," Dungy said after practice. "And I'm a league guy, but this is a bad, bad situation. They need to tell the whole story and it's not good."

As it is, the Colts still could hold a team meeting in Hawaii.

The usual suspects -- two-time MVP Peyton Manning, two-time rushing champ Edgerrin James, record-setting receiver Marvin Harrison and Dwight Freeney -- all made it. They joined three newcomers -- center Jeff Saturday, linebacker Cato June and safety Bob Sanders.

Receiver Reggie Wayne and Glenn were first alternates. So there could be a lot of Colts in Honolulu, especially since Saturday indicated he might bring his linemates with him.

"They'll be well taken care of, you can count on that," said Saturday, who entered the league as an undrafted free agent.

Fans, coaches and opposing players rewarded the Colts for being the fourth team in NFL history to start 13-0.

Manning was selected for the sixth time, Harrison the seventh time. James earned his fourth Pro Bowl selection and Freeney, who broke the franchise record for sacks Dec. 18 in a loss to San Diego, made it for the third consecutive year.

But the mistake led to a lot of outrage.

According to the Colts, the NFL's Pro Bowl list included Glenn's name as one of three AFC tackles selected for the Feb. 12 game in Honolulu. Then the league called back to inform the Colts there was a tabulating mistake.

Dungy asked the league to look into the matter, and when players strolled into the locker room at midday, most still thought Glenn was headed to Hawaii. Manning and Saturday both talked about the eight players headed to Hawaii, and Glenn even thanked his peers for voting him into the Pro Bowl for the first time. He played last year in Honolulu after being a first alternate.

"It's an honor," Glenn said. "You like to get to the point where your peers recognize you for playing well."

At 2 p.m., the league again contacted the Colts and notified them Glenn was, indeed, a first alternate behind Cincinnati's Willie Anderson, Baltimore's Jonathan Ogden and Kansas City's Willie Roaf.

League spokesman Steve Alic explained there was a computer error, a possible first in league balloting.

"Part of the vote was tabulated incorrectly and when the error was fixed, we learned that Tarik Glenn was a first alternate," he said. "We discovered the votes had not been tabulated correctly."

Glenn walked off the practice field with a glum expression on his face. Had he stayed on the roster, the Colts would have tied a franchise record with eight Pro Bowl selections, originally set in 1958, then matched in 1964 and 1971.

"To have eight players going is impressive," Manning said before learning of the mistake. "For some guys, it's their first time, and I think we could have had some more go like Reggie."

How many of the Pro Bowl players will play in the final two regular-season games? Dungy still is not sure.

Manning, who never has missed a start in eight seasons, said he intends to play this week at Seattle after contending his knee was never swollen. Team president Bill Polian announced the injury on his weekly radio show Monday night.

Harrison missed practice so he could be fitted for a hand apparatus after breaking a bone Dec. 18. Starting right tackle Ryan Diem will miss the rest of the regular season after spraining a knee ligament in the loss to the Chargers.

Defensively, the Colts could be without June (sports hernia, knee and ankle), Sanders (back), Mathis (foot), defensive tackle Corey Simon (foot) and Reagor (knee). Freeney, who has a sprained arch in his right foot, still wants to play.

But Dungy thought the most troubling issue was the NFL's mistake.

"We announced it this morning after we got the list from the NFL," Dungy said. "What happened after that, you'll have to ask them. I told him just now. He took it like he would, but the less I say, the better. You'll have to ask the league."

Son of Colts' Coach Tony Dungy Found Dead

From Yahoo! ...Please take time to pray for Coach Dungy and his family

TAMPA, Fla. - James Dungy, the 18-year-old son of Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, was found dead in a Tampa-area apartment, police said Thursday.

In a news release on its Web site, the Hillsborough County Sheriffs Office said it "responded to the Campus Lodge Apartments this morning at approximately 1:32 a.m. The girlfriend of James Dungy had returned to the apartment and discovered Dungy."

Police performed CPR on Dungy before he was taken to University Community Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The cause of death is pending an autopsy by the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office.

Tony Dungy has left the Colts and is in Tampa, according to NFL.com.

The coach and his wife, Lauren, have four other children: daughters Tiara and Jade and sons Eric and Jordan.

The Colts (13-1) are at Seattle on Saturday.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Reggie Bush looking for agents - Note to USC's Reggie Bush: pick Sports Agent Leigh Steinberg

According to ESPN.com, Reggie Bush is interviewing candidates to be his sports agent, a sure sign he's going to enter the 2006 NFL Draft.

ESPN.com reports that "Seven agents met on Monday in Los Angeles with Bush, who is expected to be forego his senior season with the Trojans and enter next year's draft, and with his advisors. The agents were Tom Condon, David Dunn, Todd France, Mitch Frankel, Eugene Parker, Joel Segal and Leigh Steinberg.

On Tuesday, at least three of the agents -- France, Segal and Steinberg -- were apprised by Bush advisors that the field had been winnowed and that they are finalists to represent the star tailback if he indeed goes into the 2006 draft."

Reggie, here's a friendly note: go with Leigh Steinberg of Leigh Steinberg Enterprises. Not just because Leigh's legendary, but also because he's got the best reputation and can not only get you the best NFL deal, he can leverage your celebrity into other areas, like broadcasting. Something the other agents can't do.

Forget his court battle with Athlete's First. Their arguments against him are exagerated greately.

Also one of these agents you're considering has had a recent problem. To learn more about it, read my account of the 2005 NFL Draft by clicking here.

Good luck Reggie.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Colts QB Peyton Manning receives record 1.18 million Pro Bowl votes.

From NFL Media.com


Indianapolis Colts quarterback PEYTON MANNING received a record 1,184,142 votes to lead
NFL All-Stars in balloting for the 2006 Pro Bowl, the NFL announced today. Presented by
Sprint, Pro Bowl voting on NFL.com, in stadiums and via the Sprint wireless service ended
Friday, Dec. 16.

There were a record 70.5 million votes cast on NFL.com and via the Sprint wireless service -- a 16 percent increase over the 61 million cast last year.

In the tally was a record 1.9 million mobile votes via Sprint wireless -- nearly 200 times the 10,000 mobile votes cast last year.

Seattle Seahawks running back SHAUN ALEXANDER (1,110,575 votes) ranked second overall while San Diego Chargers running back LA DAINIAN TOMLINSON (1,044,360), Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver CHAD JOHNSON (987,650) and Chargers tight end ANTONIO GATES (941,846) rounded out the top five.


From NFL Media.com - private access website; no direct link available to the public.
The Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings game on Sunday, January 1 will be played at 4:15 PM ET rather than 1:00 PM ET, the NFL announced today.

The change is to accommodate FOX television patterns.

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