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Coach Dad

"Coach Dad" Continued...

Issue: "Fixing Islam," June 16, 2007

When his young children reach the teen years, the 51-year-old Dungy wants to get more time with them. "When the second group of young kids gets to middle school and high school, I don't think I'll have the energy to look after them and coach."

Those close to the coach attest that his faith helps him not only with fatherhood but also with coaching. "The inspiring thing about Tony Dungy's story is that good guys do finish first," says Colts owner Irsay. "You do not have to compromise your core values to win and to be competitive." Irsay sees Dungy as humble and quiet, yet not weak. "A humble person can be strong and disciplined and tough and all those things you need to be," Irsay said.

Dungy knows what is truly important. He recalls an interview with an NFL owner who asked whether football was his most important priority in life. Dungy answered, "I want to win. I plan to win. I plan to bring you a Super Bowl. But no, it's not nearly the most important thing, and I'm not going to be here 24 hours a day."

He didn't get that job. But he's still a father.

Caring Bear

Chicago coach Lovie Smith uses success to expand opportunities for others

By Jason Bailey

Lovie Smith was afraid of water. He didn't know how to swim. But neither stopped him from jumping into a pool back in 1988 to save his then 2-year-old son Matthew, who lay lifelessly on the bottom. As Smith watched paramedics bring Matthew back from the brink of death, he began to realize that life is full of opportunities.

With that harrowing experience still in his memory, Smith has taken advantage of his position as head coach of the Chicago Bears to save children from less fortunate families from slipping through the cracks.

Smith began coaching football after a successful playing career, winning three Texas State championships as a linebacker at Big Sandy High School and being named a two-time All American at the University of Tulsa.

A steady ascension up the collegiate coaching ranks culminated in 1996 with a job offer from Tony Dungy, a fellow Christian who was the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the time. While Smith was building his own resumé, he was also learning to balance his work in football with his passion for serving others.

Smith knows not to take anything for granted, and he uses that as motivation to help those around him. Neither of his parents saw him lead the Chicago Bears to Super Bowl XLI-his father, Thurman, died from emphysema in 1996, and his mother, Mae, is blind because she suffers from type 2 diabetes.

Smith, 49, is now an official spokesman for the American Diabetes Association and donates 10 tickets to every Bears game for children who suffer from diabetes. He and his wife, MaryAnne, also have a foundation that helps provide college scholarships to needy students. The success Smith has had as a football coach has enabled him to expand the effects of his charitable work.

It is difficult for Smith to accept that his father, who attended his high-school football games every Friday night despite battling alcoholism, was unable to see all the fruits of his son's hard work. "It is bittersweet when there are people who you know would've been so excited," Smith told Ebony in 2004, at the conclusion of his first season as the Chicago Bears head coach. "I think about my dad, how he would have just loved it, how I would have liked to see his face, bragging to his buddies about what I was doing."

-Jason Bailey is a writer in Quincy, Ill.

Russ Pulliam
Russ Pulliam

Russ is a columnist for The Indianapolis Star, the director of the Pulliam Fellowship, and a member of God's World Publications' board of directors.

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