TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Tony Dungy loves Tampa. That much was clear on Tuesday when the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach visited One Buc Place to talk about his upcoming Ring of Honor induction.
“People ask me now, what’s my hometown? And even though I was born in Jackson, Michigan, my hometown is Tampa,” Dungy said during a news conference. “That’s what you hope for. It’s been very, very special and the night of the (induction) is going to put a cap on things.”
It was announced back in May that Dungy, who is now an analyst for NBC Sunday Night Football, would be inducted into the Bucs Ring of Honor on Sept. 24. The ceremony will take place during the team’s nationally-televised Monday Night Football game at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“I remember just coming here and talking to Mr. Glazer and saying we want to get our team connected back to the city, we want to get people excited about the Buccaneers again, we want our guys to be part of the community and doing things right and by the way, we want to win,” Dungy said. “And to see that come to fruition has been amazing.”
Dungy is the 12th inductee of the Buccaneers Ring of Honor and will be the only one this season.
“It’s an awesome, awesome tribute for myself and my family. I’m proud of that, I’m grateful,” he said. “I thank God that I got a chance to come here.”
Dungy boasted a 54-42 regular season record, a Buccaneers franchise best. He also led the team to four playoff appearances. But he says the type of players they had on the team was his biggest achievement.
“The way they conducted themselves and the way they played football, the way they got the community to connect with the Bucs, I think that was the biggest accomplishment,” Dungy said. “It was great to get us back on the winning track but I think the type of young men we had was the defining thing.”
Dungy left the Bucs after six seasons and went on to coach the Indianapolis Colts. But he says he doesn’t want to focus on how he left Tampa Bay.
“I was fired from here but I was also hired here. No one else gave me a chance,” he said. “I appreciated that and I’ll always appreciate that. I was hired to do a job and I did it the best I could.”
During the news conference, Dungy also addressed the recent controversial protests during the national anthem.
“I always encouraged our guys – if you’re going to make Tampa a better place to live, we want you to do things in the community,” he explained. “Then when they have feelings that need to be expressed, we can’t say ‘Well don’t express those feelings, don’t try to make our country better, don’t try to make Tampa a better place to live. We only want you to do it our way.’ You’ve gotta embrace that.”
“I think you do have a responsibility to do what you think is necessary to help make the situation better, but do it in the right way,” he added. “I think what we have to get back to is everybody working together. What’s the goal? If the goal is to make our city better, our country better – we can find ways to do that. And I do encourage the young men to do that. Find a way to make things better.”
After the news conference, Dungy clarified his comments and said we have to understand what the athletes are trying to do with the protests.
“That’s what gets lost in the dialogue. They’re not trying to defame the flag, they’re not trying to defame the military or first responders. We can build a whole narrative about that but that’s not what they’re trying to do,” he said. “These guys see some things going on in their communities and they’re trying to make the situation better.”
“We can debate whether they should do that or when they should do it but these guys are very, very patriotic,” Dungy added. “They’re doing it because they care. Where I kind of fault the NFL, I think we need to be working together about this.”
So how would Dungy approach the situation if he was still an NFL coach?
“My first meeting of the year, I would have them come to me and say ‘What are your concerns, what is really on your mind, what do you want to say and what are your solutions?'” he said. “And then I’m going to give you ten minutes of my press conference to get that out so you won’t have to use three minutes before the game when nobody can hear you. But I’m going to give you the platform you want to be a voice for those who don’t have a voice.”
Dungy also got a chance to check out this year’s team on Tuesday when he attended Bucs practice before the news conference.
“I was watching the offense more-so because I know the defensive guys,” Dungy said. “O.J. Howard, I was stunned at how big he is and how athletic. Of course, the big wide receivers – I got a chance to see Mike Evans – those guys stand out.”
The former head coach says he noticed a lot of energy and a lot of athleticism on the team, “which is what I like.”
“It’s great to have coach here,” head coach Dirk Koetter said after practice. “It’s rare that you get a guy that’s in Colts Ring of Honor, Bucs Ring of Honor and NFL Hall of Fame. Doesn’t get much bigger than that.”
“Coach spent about 20 minutes talking to the players this morning and who better than a local guy and a guy that does care about the Bucs and was here?” Koetter added. “He did a phenomenal job and very honored for us to have him here today.”