In my eyes and the eyes of many Christians – especially Christian sports fans – Tony Dungy is a man of impeccable character.
Dungy turned the Colts from underachievers with a talented roster into a perennial Super Bowl contender. He did so with rock solid adherence to his faith and an unyielding testimony to high character and moral fiber. He also endured the suicide of his teenage son with inspirational strength and was the reason for a now-epic photo of the Colts praying around the Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl XLI.
Since retiring as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts in the spring, Dungy have dove head-first into full-time ministry focusing on young men in prison. It’s not surprising Dungy would opt for serving God as opposed to a cushy TV commentating job or a beach as many ex-coaches do.
In working on his prison ministry, Dungy visited at least one high-profile inmate – Michael Vick.
The former Atlanta Falcons quarterback is well-known outside of football circles for his conviction on dog fighting charges. He is now getting ready to return to the NFL and says he is close to signing with a team.
I’ve written before that despite all the horrible things Vick has done, he has been punished and deserves a second chance.
Dungy agrees, despite the obvious risks involved.
Dungy told National Public Radio he had met Vick while the Colts where playing the Falcons in a 2004 preseason game in Japan, and the two committed to taking a fishing trip together sometime. Dungy laments the trip never took place, a possible missed opportunity to minister to Vick and turn him away from dog fighting.
Dungy met with Vick in the waning days of his incarceration in federal prison and subsequently since his release. He sees Vick’s allure to dog fighting as an easy outgrowth of his inner-city upbringing in Hampton, Va., and to some commentators on the story this comes off as too sympathetic.
That is open to debate, but what isn’t is the fact that Dungy said if he was still with the Colts he would consider bringing Vick in alongside established superstar QB Peyton Manning, whose public persona is the polar opposite of Vick.
“I would personally,” Dungy told NPR’s Steve Inskeep. “I think he committed a crime. He paid a penalty for it. He has learned from this. I think he would benefit from being with an organization like the Colts and a football family. If I were there I would take a chance on him.”
Whether Vick lands in Indianapolis, with former Falcons coach Jim Mora, Jr., in Seattle, recent Brett Favre courtiers in Minnesota or anywhere else, Vick’s assertions about his changes and Dungy’s faith in him will be tested.