Dungy: 'It's hard to believe'

CANTON, Ohio - When Tony Dungy enters the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2016 in a few days, he will be going in for his time as a head coach with the Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Dungy was a head coach for 13 seasons in the NFL, with his teams going to the postseason 11 times, including winning Super Bowl XLI.

But it was in Pittsburgh where Dungy got his start in the NFL, first as a player in 1977-78 and later as defensive backs coach (1981-83) and defensive coordinator (1984-88) under Coach Chuck Noll.

Dungy walked through the Hall of Fame and during his tour of the museum definitely took pride in seeing Steelers memorabilia and especially the busts of his former Steelers' teammates and Noll.

While visiting, Dungy shared his thoughts about his time with the Steelers and his Hall of Fame selection.

What is it like to hear, Tony Dungy, Pro Football Hall of Famer?"It still doesn't even register. As I think back and walk through the Hall and look at the teammates I have that are in the Hall of Fame, I think that was a great player, Franco Harris, Mel Blount, and then Coach Noll and Dan Rooney and 'The Chief,' (Art Rooney Sr.). That is what I think of when I think Hall of Fame. To be in that category, is still doesn't even register."

Was it emotional when you received the news that you were one of the members of the Class of 2016?
"It's pretty overwhelming because you are trying to guard yourself against disappointment. We had a reception and the 15 finalists are there and there are so many great people, players you played against, you just don't think it's going to happen. You try not to get too fired up. Then we got the knock on the door and it was pretty unbelievable."

What is the feeling when you see all of the Hall of Fame busts and you now you are a part of that small fraternity?
"It's hard to believe. It's an exclusive club. There is so much history here. I have been to the Hall of Fame five or six times with my boys and family. I would bring them in and say here is Coach Noll, he coached me. Here is Mel Blount, my teammate, here is Lynn Swann and John Stallworth, you have been to their house and they are the best players in the world. That is the feeling you have when you come in the Hall of Fame. Now to know I am going to be here, it's hard to believe. It's hard to believe."

What did you learn from Chuck Noll that helped you develop as a coach?
"The first thing I learned was our very first meeting we ever had in 1977, our rookie minicamp. I remember it like it was yesterday. Coach Noll said welcome to the National Football League. You are now being paid to play football so that makes it your profession, but don't make football your life. It can't be your total life. You have to come here, learn about the city, you have to enjoy it, and you have to find out what your life's work is going to be and I am going to help you do that. Just to hear a man say he is going to help us be better players, but help us find our motivation for life and living was pretty awesome. I saw him live that out. I saw him coach Super Bowl teams, but also have a family life and do things with his son, and things in the community that were important. Mr. Rooney echoed that. You have to be part of this community, not just part of the team. That stuck with me forever.

"When I played for Coach Noll I kind of did things because he said so. That was my job. I was a player. When I was on the staff I learned why, why do we do things this way? That helped me. I took my coaching philosophy from him."

Can you talk about the bond you have with the Rooney family?
"It has to start with 'The Chief.' I got there in 1977 and Mr. Rooney Sr. was so awesome, the way he ran the organization. Then Dan took over. When I came back there weren't many African American coaches in the NFL, maybe 10-12 at that time. Dan said we want you to be yourself, be part of our group. He always wanted to help me in my career, help me grow as a person. He wanted me to be the best I could be. That once a Steeler, always a Steeler. I owe so much to Coach Noll, to The Chief, to Dan, I can't explain it."

You selected your former Steelers teammate Donnie Shell to be your Hall of Fame presenter. Why did you select him?
"I came to the Steelers in 1977 and I became Donnie Shell's roommate. I looked up to everything he did. He helped me learn how to be an NFL player, but he also helped me learn how to be a man. I couldn't think of a better person to present me because he is a guy I emulated, looked up to, and he didn't let me down. He directed me in the right path."

Should Donnie Shell be in the Hall of Fame?"He should be. 51 interceptions, 19 fumble recoveries, four Super Bowl rings, All-NFL player. No question he should be in."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content