In February 2007, history happened. The Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Bears were heading into Super Bowl XLI with two black head coaches leading them there. Either Tony Dungy or Lovie Smith were going to walk away as the first-ever black head coach to win the Lombardi Trophy.
Now, the results are in the record books and Tony Dungy is officially where he undoubtedly belongs – the Pro Football Hall of Fame. During his acceptance speech this past Saturday, Dungy made time to thank his players, assistants and, most importantly, the black assistant coaches that came before him, according to ESPN.
“Willie Brown, Buck Buchanan, Earnel Durden, Bob Ledbetter, Elijah Pitts, Jimmy Raye, Johnny Roland, Al Tabor, Lionel Taylor and Allan Webb,” were the names Dungy rolled off before the crowd.
“Now those names might not be familiar to you, but those were the African-American assistant coaches in the NFL in 1977, my first year in the league,” Dungy said. “It was a small group of men, just 10 of them, if you can believe that — African-American assistant coaches in the NFL. Many of them never got the chance to move up the coaching ladder like I did, but they were so important to the progress of this league.
“Those men were like my dad. They didn’t complain about the lack of opportunities — they found ways to make the situation better. They were role models and mentors for me and my generation of young African-American coaches, like Ray Rhodes, Terry Robiskie and Herm Edwards.
Dungy is now the second black head coach to be awarded the prestigious honor of being placed in the Hall of Fame, the first being Fritz Pollard. His influence was truly felt when he asked his former players in attendance to stand for acknowledgement and the likes of current and future Hall of Famers such as Warren Sapp, Marvin Harrison and Peyton Manning were seen.
The former Colts and Tampa Bay Bucaneers head coach will likely be thanked in many speeches in the future as young coaches and players he impacted make their way into the hall as well.
Photo Courtesy: Wiki Commons