Tony Dungy voices the pain & lessons from his sonís suicide
Tony Dungy honors God |
Tony Dungy, head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, shares for the first time publicly that he and his family had donated several organs for transplant surgeries after his 18-year-old son, James, committed suicide in December. Dungy spoke at the Super Bowl Breakfast in Detroit, Saturday February 4 at the Marriott Renaissance Center.
New York Jets running back is congratulated by former NFL greats |
New York Jets running back Curtis Martin is congratulated by former NFL greats, Bart Starr, Green Bay Packers quarterback (r) and San Francisco 49ers tight end Brent Jones (l) after receiving the Bart Starr Award at the Super Bowl Breakfast held in Detroit on Saturday February 4.
Posted on Feb 3, 2006 | by Art Stricklin
EDITORSí NOTE: Dallas-based sportswriter Art Stricklin is reporting this week on the spiritual side of the Super Bowl. His final story from Detroit will appear in BP Monday.
POSTED Saturday, Feb. 4.
DETROIT (BP)--An emotional Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy, in his first speaking engagement since his sonís funeral, headlined the 19th annual Athletes in Action Super Bowl breakfast Saturday morning at the Super Bowl XL headquarters hotel in Detroit.
New York Jets running back Curtis Martin received the Bart Starr Award, given annually to an NFL player on the basis of character and service. But all eyes were on Dungy, who was given two standing ovations in telling of the pain and the lessons from his sonís suicide in December.
Dungy said he had learned a lot from his sons, Eric, 14 and Jordan, 5, ďbut the most important thing came from James, who would have been 19.Ē
ďHe was a Christian and is today in heaven. He was struggling with the things of the world and took his own life. People ask how I could come back to work so soon. Iím not totally recovered, I donít know if I ever will be, itís still ever-painful,Ē he said, wiping back a tear. ďBut some good things have come out of it.Ē
He said he has received dozens of letters from people who heard him speak at his sonís funeral or at a Colts news conference on the peace and assurance he has in his sonís salvation and eternal destination. Dungy told of two people having received the gift of sight from his sonís donated corneas and of the youth to whom he has talked who are wrestling with similar problems as his son.
But Dungy used the most important lesson to drive home his point before the packed ballroom full of former NFL players and coaches, league officials and fans.
ďIf God had talked to me before Jamesí death and said his death would have helped all these people, it would have saved them and healed their sins, but I would have to take your son, I would have said no, I canít do that.
ďBut God had the same choice 2,000 years ago with His Son, Jesus Christ, and it paved the way for you and me to have eternal life. Thatís the benefit I got, thatís the benefit James got and thatís the benefit you can get if you accept Jesus into your heart today as your Savior.Ē
Dungy said the biggest regret in his life is that when he saw his son for the last time during the Thanksgiving holidays, he did not hug him when he left but only gave him a causal goodbye.
He said he didnít want to have the same regret at the sold-out breakfast, as he led the crowd in prayer, asking those who did not have Jesus in their life to accept Him for the very first time.
ďI want you to know there is a peace in your mind through Godís spirit when you know Jesus and know you will be in heaven with Him.Ē
When he got up to speak, Dungy said it was the eighth or ninth time he had attended the annual Super Bowl event, but his dream remains to attend just 24 hours before he takes the field as a Super Bowl coach.
ďThis is a tremendous event and itís great to be here, but I didnít want come here as the invited speaker, but as the head coach of a Super Bowl team. My goal is to fill a couple of tables with my players the day before the game.
ďIt hasnít happened yet; I'll sure be happy when it does.Ē
Before he got up to speak, a brief video was shown of Colts players talking about the impact Dungy had on their life before and after the tragic death of his son.
ďThis is the way a Christian man should coach a team,Ē punter Hunter Smith said. ďI believe itís the way Jesus would coach a team.Ē
Martin, in his acceptance speech for the Bart Starr Award, said his faith in God helped him overcome a rocky beginning to his life, including family and friends being killed when he was young and an abusive home situation where his dad regularly beat his mom.
ďI always thought I would die before I was 21, but I appreciate life now and I do realize we have a God who forgives whatever we can do.Ē
Hall of Fame members Steve Largent, a receiver with the Seattle Seahawks, and Lem Barney, a Detroit Lions cornerback, also voiced testimonies of Godís goodness both on and off the field.
ďWhy does God allow pain in our life?Ē Dungy asked in his emotionally charged speech. ďBecause weíre loved by God and the pain allows us to head back to our Father.Ē