- (Photo: AP Images / AJ Mast)
Super Bowl Champion Coach Tony Dungy, who announced Monday that he will continue as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, said his return is a chance to continue his ministry.
After the Colts loss to the San Diego Chargers in the divisional playoffs last Sunday, Dungy spent a week talking and praying with family members and friends to decide on whether he should return to football or retire.
On Monday, the deeply religious Dungy, who has published a memoir on how his Christian faith has affected him on and off the field, said he felt coaching was the best pulpit for his message.
"I enjoy my job, the players, the staff we have here and Bill (Polian) and Jim," Dungy told reporters. "But it is a platform and that's something I talked to my wife and pastor about. I said 'I could stop and start a ministry, but I might not have a platform like this.'"
"I look at this as a job," he said, "but I also look at it as a ministry ... I might not have as effective a ministry as I have right now."
His family's recent move back to Tampa, where his 16-year-old son, Eric, is attending high school, led many of his fans to speculate whether he might retire there.
But the family man said his decision had the support of his wife, Lauren, and their family.
"I love this franchise. I love my family. My decision ... was, 'Can I give my family and the franchise the energy and passion that they both deserve?'" said Dungy.
"I'm happy to be back. My whole family's happy and hopefully our team and everyone here is happy."
The Colts owner, Jim Irsay, has also made it easier for Dungy to do both well.
He is allowing Dungy to spend part of the off-season in Tampa and the use of his private plane to fly to Tampa so he could watch his son play football Friday nights during the season.
Tony is committed to his family; hes committed to the franchise, Irsay said. Tony does a great job of balancing that.
Dungy's contract will run through 2009.
Until then, he is expected to continue his duties as head coach and witness for Christ.
On Feb. 3, the day before the New England Patriots go head-on with the New York Giants at the University of Phoenix Stadium, Dungy is scheduled to give his personal faith testimony at the 2008 Athletes in Action Super Bowl Breakfast in Phoenix. The event will be simulcasted to churches across the nation.
Jane Vincent, a long-time Colts fan who has owned season tickets since the team moved to Indianapolis in 1984, was thrilled to hear of Dungy's return.
According to Vincent, Dungy exudes an aura of peace and of Christianity.
"He's a wonderful mentor," she told the Palledium-Item. "What an example for young people to see of all cultures."
Dungy has led Indianapolis to an 80-28 record and one Super Bowl championship in six seasons.
But according to his best-selling book, Quiet Strength, his true calling lies beyond his football career.
"I coach football. But the good I can do to glorify God along the way is my real purpose," wrote Dungy.