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Continued: Tony Dungy: Uncommon decency

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: January 13, 2009 - 3:58 PM

Tom Moore grew up in Rochester, played college football at Iowa and coached at the University of Minnesota.

The football lifer envisioned a diverse offense that would enable an intelligent quarterback to call most of his own plays at the line of scrimmage. Years later, Peyton Manning and a host of new-age quarterbacks would make these offenses commonplace. Years earlier, Moore had introduced his ideas to a recruit out of Michigan, during a meeting that would change their lives.

"He came and met me at my high school in 1973 and showed me a videotape of what this offense was all about," Tony Dungy said a couple of years ago. "He said, 'Here's what happens -- you go to the line of scrimmage, I give you three or four plays, you look at the defense and if you see this, you do that.' And I watched that video and thought, 'Wow, this would be fun.' "

Dungy committed to Minnesota. He and Moore became friends, and later worked together on the Steelers and Vikings coaching staffs.

When Dungy became head coach of the Indianapolis Colts in 2002, he kept Moore as offensive coordinator. When Dungy became the first black head coach to win a Super Bowl, it was Moore's offense, with Manning playing Dungy's old role, that combined with Dungy's defense to make history.

Monday, Dungy retired from coaching. He wants to use his popularity to help people other than football players.

"Being the coach of this football team," he said Monday, "has given me a definite platform to reach people I would have never been able to reach."

Dungy started building that platform at the U, with Moore. "He worked with me and developed me as a quarterback, as a thinker and as a person," Dungy said. "No question, I wouldn't be here today without working under Tom for those four years."

Moore told me two years ago that he remembered arriving at the Bierman Building on the Minnesota campus at 6:30 a.m. every day to find Dungy waiting, "so he could study a couple of cans of film before he went to class."

Moore said, "Tony had the same passion as Peyton Manning. We did some no-huddle stuff, and he called a lot of his own plays."

This was at Super Bowl XLI in Miami. Moore was sitting by himself, chatting about his Minnesota roots. Unsolicited, he looked up and said, reverently, "Tony's great."

How often do we see a coach of Dungy's success and stature leave the job on his own terms, dignity intact, soaking in admiration from every corner of the country and every profession entwined with his?

Maybe never, before now.

The most successful NFL head coaches tend to believe they're Pattons in headsets. They win championships and earn the admiration of those closest to them, but they usually succeed either in spite of or because of a God complex. They leave bodies and careers strewn in their wake.

I got to know Dungy when he worked for the Vikings, when he found a way to produce spectacular results while earning the admiration, even the love, of his players.

Football historians will remember Dungy for breaking a racial barrier. Those who know Dungy prefer to think of him as unique in another way.

People performed for Dungy because they admired him. They never wanted to disappoint such a charismatic and decent man.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon on AM-1500 KSTP. • jsouhan@startribune.com

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