A Lesson in Giving Back
Tony and Lauren Dungy have left a legacy in Tampa Bay of goodwill and charity
Over the last 15 years, few public figures in Tampa Bay have attracted the kind of attention that Tony Dungy draws. He’s the local legend that’s not so local anymore.
In some of us, he’s still coach. His legacy as the coach of Tampa Bay Buccaneers resonates strong with fans across the Bay area, and probably will for decades to come. But for the Dungy family, there has always been a bigger, more important legacy to leave behind: a legacy of giving.
As a dedicated husband and father to seven children, it’s hard to believe Dungy has any time at all for his family. He’s an author, an analyst on Sunday Night Football and a spokesman for dozens of civic organizations across the country.
We caught up with Dungys after they finished reading their book, “You Can Be A Friend,” to an attentive and responsive group of students at Woodbridge Elementary School in Town ‘n’ Country and asked them a few questions about philanthropy and their holiday plans.
How does your family plan to spend the holidays this year?
Coach: Well for us, Thanksgiving was always centered on football. Normally we’d practice in the morning and watch the game so it was always kind of a football-family day. This Thanksgiving, we’re actually going out to Oregon because our son is playing the day after so we’re going to go out there. It will be weird because that game will come on about 9am so we’ll have to get up early and have dinner as an early lunch.
Any family recipes that are always a must have?
Lauren: We all like to cook and everyone just kind of digs in. We do have family, half family and extended family there so we all just come together for our meal.
Coach: I will tell you a funny story. Our very first year being married I was coaching for the Steelers and we played in Detroit for the Thanksgiving game and Lauren was going to cook for all my defensive backs. We played at like 11:30am so we were going to be back by 6pm that night. We lost 41-3 and the plane had a part that broke so we didn’t get back to Pittsburgh until midnight. She had all this food waiting for us and none of the guys showed up. (laughs)
What does your family do for Christmas?
Lauren: We love to go out and do things in the community so prior to Christmas, we usually adopt a family a two and buy toys for the kids. We get our kids involved and shop and then we have them wrap the Christmas presents as well and deliver them to the family or organization. On Christmas morning, the kids usually get up and we tell them the Christmas story before they open their presents and then we make a birthday cake for Jesus. That’s a tradition we do every year.
What’s your favorite part about the holidays?
Coach: For us, it has always been about getting the whole family together at once, especially with Thanksgiving. With Christmas, we were always kind of pushing to January and hopefully with the playoffs after Christmas, we’ll be playing some good football.
Coach, you’ve been a mentor to so many people for so long. Who would you say is your role model or mentor?
Coach: I had a few guys. First of all my dad growing up and guys I played with in Pittsburgh. I was really fortunate to go to a winning team but there were really some first-class guys, some strong Christian guys on the team, guys with great families. As a young player at 21, I didn’t fall into what professional football players are supposed to be. These guys were tremendous role models. Donnie Shell was my roommate and John Stallworth, they were guys when I got there, they were stars but they kind of showed me how you’re supposed to do it in all phases of your life.
Your family has done so much for our community, what are you most proud of?
Coach: For me professionally, I remember coming here and the very first meeting we had saying we want to win a Super Bowl and we want to impact the community. When I see guys like Mike Allstott, Derrick Brooks, Warrick and those guys have done here in not only bringing a winning team but how they have impacted the community is really gratifying.
Lauren: Our latest project now, the Dungy Family Foundation, we’re trying to involved ourselves in the community, the schools and the churches to share ourselves, our books and give back a little bit and that has been really fun.
What would you say are some local charities that are less known in the community but should start receiving more recognition and support?
Coach: We’ve done a lot with Metropolitan Ministries and they’ve been great. They serve a lot of the homeless here and that has been something we’ve seen over the last 15 years that has been great. We do great work with Abe Brown Ministries, which serves prison outreach and inmates and that has been really rewarding. We also do a lot with All Pro Dad and IMOM, which get a lot of publicity around here. Some of the others have been just as rewarding.
Lauren: And Pat Layton at A Women’s Place Ministries supports women who find themselves pregnant and trying to find out what to do with their baby. We’re supportive of that.
Where did this legacy of giving back come from and why did you decide that this was something you wanted to be known for?
Coach: I think it’s just Christian principles and biblical principles that you receive a lot when you’re blessed and you have a responsibility.
Lauren: I think it’s also the way we were raised too. We were always giving back and it’s not about ourselves and it’s something we’re trying to teach our children as well.
You’ve done so much writing lately, what have you been reading?
Lauren: Goodness, I’ve been doing a lot of bible studies so it has been a lot of studying but I do enjoy contemporary writers like Alice Walker, J. California Cooper and women writers who just tell great stories and write about life lessons.
Coach: Believe it or not I’m not much of a reader but we went to South Africa, our daughter is studying over there, and someone gave me Nelson Mandela’s book and we were so inspired by Mandela and the history we saw there. I’ve really been looking forward to getting into that.