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NTEA keynoter speaker Tony Dungy coaches attendees on how to field a successful scoring drive in life

May 5, 2015
Eight years after his renowned quarterback gave the keynote speech, Tony Dungy touches down and gives life lessons

TONY Dungy found some perfect symmetry between his appearance as keynote speaker at this year’s Work Truck Show in Indianapolis and Peyton Manning’s at the 2007 event in the same city.

Manning was just a few months removed from being Super Bowl XLI MVP as the Indianapolis Colts beat the Chicago Bears 29-17. His head coach? Dungy.

“Coming into this building is special to me because our stadium used to be next door,” said Dungy, now an NFL analyst for NBC. “We walked from the hotel through this convention center into the RCA Dome to play our home games. Those were wonderful times and some great memories.”

For Dungy, that championship was the culmination of a long road of triumphs and heartaches. He was fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002, despite leading the previously moribund franchise to the playoffs in four of five seasons, including reaching the NFC Championship game in the 1999 season. He stayed true to his beliefs, and it paid off with the Colts.

“I have to confess: I don’t know much about the trucking business,” he said. “I know how to drive a truck. And that’s about it. I don’t know how to put them together, sell them, and service them. But I think the principles we talked about with the Colts and Buccaneers apply to business and to life, because they’re really universal.”

He said most of his beliefs were strongly influenced by his parents, both of whom grew up during the Great Depression, and coaches he played under.

Wilbur Dungy, who served as a pilot during World War II with the famed Tuskegee Airmen, was a science professor at Jackson College. Cleomae Dungy taught Shakespeare at Jackson High in Michigan.

“They were both very, very smart people, but their personalities were different,” Dungy said. “Dad was practical. He was one to get straight to the point and deal with issues. Mom was the empathetic one. So if I had a bad day in practice or didn’t get the ball enough, I knew to go to Mom. Dad would say, ‘What would you do to make the situation better?’ Mom would start out, ‘Yeah, I was at the game and I don’t understand why you didn’t get in more. Don’t worry about how you’re being treated. Do things the right way, do things the best way, do things 100% on your part and let God take care of the results.’ ”

At the University of Minnesota, he played for Cal Stoll.

“He used to say, ‘Success is uncommon; it won’t be enjoyed by the common man. We’re looking for successful people. There are a couple of ways you can be uncommon: You can have talent that is so unique and rare that no one else in the world has it, or you can have desire, tenacity, and the will to do things everybody could do but most people won’t.’ That rang true to me. I don’t have that rare talent. It takes drive and determination and willpower.”

The next stop was the Pittsburgh Steelers, playing as a rookie defensive back under legend Chuck Noll.

“At the very first meeting, he said, ‘Welcome to the National Football League. You’re getting paid to play, so that makes football your profession, but understand it can’t be your life. You have to find something that drives you outside the game, and we’re here to help you do that.’ I thought that was unique, coming from a coach who had won two Super Bowls.”

All of that advice helped him draw up a blueprint for building a championship organization. Some of the key aspects:

•  Establish goals. “I had one sign in our locker room for 13 years: EXPECTATIONS, EXECUTION, NO EXCUSES, NO EXPLANATIONS. That was my only one, because I thought it said everything in six words. For us, the expectations were the Super Bowl. That’s what we always talked about. Backstage, looking at your brochure, I saw Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year for 2015. There’s nothing wrong with having simple, measurable goals that we can all strive for. It doesn’t mean we will get there and we are a failure if we don’t win a Super Bowl, but that is the goal. So often we’ll let excuses or explanations get in the way. When I got the job in Tampa, they had had 13 straight losing seasons. I heard some unbelievable excuses and explanations. ‘We can’t win in cold weather.’ ‘We’ve got an old stadium.’ ‘We can’t attract players.’ ”

•  It has to be a team effort. “Coach Noll said everyone on the team is important, but no one is indispensable. When I got there, we had nine players who would ultimately make the Hall of Fame. But Coach Noll made me feel like I was important. He said, ‘We’re not going to put it on the stars. Everyone has to pull their own weight.’ It let me know how teams win. And talent isn’t the most important thing.”

• You have to be a problem solver. “And some of those problems will demand solutions that are outside the box, and will require you to be creative. You can’t follow the crowd. You have to be ready to blaze a trail.” ♦