OXFORD – Heading into a stretch of three SEC games and needing one win to qualify for a bowl game, the Ole Miss Rebels heard from a man who knows a thing or two about championships – former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy.
Dungy won two Super Bowls, one as a player with Pittsburgh in 1978 and as head coach of the Colts in 2006, the first African-American coach to win the NFL championship.
Dungy was in Memphis for a speaking engagement and drove down to address the team at the request of Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt.
They developed a friendship through the years when Dungy was scouting players.
“I was in Memphis for an event up there, it’s not that far away and wanted to just come down and see it, number one. It’s one of the few places that I haven’t been, so, it was kind of a win-win situation. It gave me a chance to get here and to talk to the guys a little bit,” Dungy said.
Nutt gathered players in a semi-circle in the middle of one of the practice fields just prior to the beginning of the stretch period.
“I told them you can’t worry about expectations and external things. What a team has to worry about is focus. Our Super Bowl team went through a down time in December and got back going, and it was really because of the veteran leadership.”
Dungy used his Super Bowl-winning Colts as an example, but not from the standpoint of victory. He told players of that team’s 44-17 loss at Jacksonville early in December and how many observers had written off their chances for a meaningful playoff run.
Dungy made two quick points before giving way to the regular routine. He talked to players about toughness and perseverance, then told them whatever success they might achieve this season would not ultimately define their lives.
‘It’s what’s inside’
“The last talk before the Super Bowl I told our players, ‘I hope we win, but if you think the Super Bowl is going to make your life, you’re wrong.’ It’s about what’s inside you, how you relate to others and how you relate to the Lord.”
Dungy was 139-69 coaching Tampa Bay from 1996-2001 and Indianapolis from 2002-2008.
He presently works with Tampa-based outreach programs ministering to fathers and to prison inmates. He also does analyst work with Football Night in America on NBC Sunday evenings.
He analyzed the state of Ole Miss football this way: “They still have plenty of time to make this a memorable year.”
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal