Reggie White honored during pre-Super Bowl breakfast
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP)--Just over 25 hours before Super Bowl XXXIX got underway, players from around the NFL gathered for an awards program -- and to remember the late Reggie White -- at the 18th annual Athletes in Action Super Bowl breakfast.
About 1,500 fans and players turned up at the NFL headquarters hotel for the breakfast, where Buffalo cornerback Troy Vincent, in absentia, received the Bart Starr Award presented by the former Green Bay Packers legend himself.
Vincent, honored for his outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field and in the community, is the NFL Players Association president and a five-time Pro Bowl selection. He was unable to attend because of the death of his father.
Former Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Cris Carter accepted the award for his good friend Vincent.
"I talked with Troy this morning and for players in the NFL, this is one of the awards we want to win. We want to be in this game, we want to win this award, but mainly we want to make a difference," Carter said.
The highlight of NFL-sanctioned gathering was an emotional tribute to former Green Bay and Philadelphia defensive tackle Reggie White, a former Bart Starr award winner, who died on Dec. 26.
"We play tribute to the Minister of Defense, absent from this world, but never forgotten," Starr said.
White's son, Jeremy, wearing his father's jersey from his days with the Green Bay Packers, accepted a framed portrait of a photo of White's Athletes in Action award from Starr, Anthony Munoz and William Pugh, president of AIA.
Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy, whose team came within two games of the Super Bowl this year, also shared his testimony with the crowd along with Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio and the three-time Super Bowl champion Brent Jones, formally of the San Francisco 49ers.
"I had a chance to interview with Jacksonville owner Wayne Weaver [before going to Indianapolis] and I told him, as I know Jack did, that winning is very, very important, but it's not the most important thing in my life. That's to make an impact as a Christian man in my community," Dungy said.
Dungy said he has formed an NFL Christian coach's accountability group for head and assistant coaches to pray for each other during the season and hold each other accountable amid the stress and pressure of coaching professional football. He also hosts a weekend fishing trip each summer for the coaches to come together for prayer, worship and fellowship.
"You have to have character and integrity in this business," said Del Rio, now in his second season as Jacksonville's head coach. "You have to fight for time with your family. That's why we always have Monday night dinner with dad, Tuesday lunch with my wife and Friday night date night.
"You have to schedule that time and protect it as sacred for your family," Del Rio said.
Dungy served as head coach at Tampa Bay for six years before going to Indianapolis four years ago. He said the opportunity to mold and shape athletes' hearts and character is what keeps him going in this pressure-filled business.
"We all want to have an impact, and my role as a head coach is to foster an atmosphere in guys' hearts that they can be men of character and integrity."