Trusting God and Doing What You Do

I’ve never personally met Coach Tony Dungy but, along with my dad, he has helped me to change for the better so that my wife, Stephanie, hasn’t kicked me out of the house after 21 years of living with a psycho football coach.

My dad and Steele Harmon became big fans of Coach Dungy because of his willingness to share his faith and his involvement in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. They both insisted that I read Coach Dungy’s books, “Quiet Strength” and “Uncommon”. Both books were so good we have used them for Bible studies at Trinity United Methodist Church.

As a football coach, Coach Dungy stressed the concept that the key to postseason success is to continue to do what you do and be who you are. He points to Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots as a prime example of a team that continues to do and be what it is all through the season. According to Coach Dungy, the secret to the Patriots success is Belichick’s wisdom in not making wide-sweeping changes for the postseason.

Coach Dungy played for Chuck Noll, the Hall of Fame coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers who won four Super Bowls. Chuck Noll was the first coach he witnessed to follow that lesson – continue into the postseason to be who you are and do what you do.

Coach Dungy uses the David and Goliath story to illustrate that point in “Quiet Strength”. In preparing his Colts for their 2007 AFC Championship win over the Patriots, he pointed out that David rejected King Saul’s armor for the battle because he was not used to it. David went into battle doing what he always did. Of course, David was victorious and the Colts were as well.

Before reading Coach Dungy’s book, I learned he was right the hard way. In 1999, when we were preparing for a great opponent in Lexington Catholic, we used a formation that was too big of a change. The Knights were the better team, but I didn’t help us by making our team uncomfortable.

I had thought they were too quick up front for us to block them. I was wrong. When we settled into doing what we could do, our kids played well on the offensive side of the ball. We had also placed our defensive ends in an uncomfortable spot by having them drop and cover the flat from our 50 front. That was the last night that a 50 was our base defense.

In 2003 when we were getting ready for Highlands High School, I had the same concern that they were too quick up front for us to block them, but I remembered the lesson from 1999 and gave our kids a chance to block them. We didn’t win the game but we did play well enough to have a chance to win, and we did play the best game we have played in my 17 seasons here.

As grateful as I am for what I learned about postseason football, this one quote from Coach Dungy in “Uncommon” is what I am most thankful for – “In the end, I just believed that God had me in coaching and that eventually He would give me a feeling of satisfaction from my career, even if He didn’t give us a Super Bowl victory.”

Over the past 21 years, I have had periods (usually the worst between the end of the season and spring practice) that I have been nearly impossible to live with. I don’t know how Stephanie puts up with me. One time during the 2002 season, my dad got my attention and said if I didn’t get my act together, Stephanie was going to get tired of putting up with me and my garbage – in so many words.

The idea that even though I am frustrated at the moment, I can trust God that eventually I will feel good about what I have done as a coach and that it made a big difference for my family and me. Until I read that, I thought and felt I may never be satisfied with the job I have done. It made me feel good to hear a great Christian coach say he felt like I felt, but that he was confident God would ultimately provide.

I would love to tell you that now I am 100 percent well-adjusted and that Stephanie and the kids always enjoy hanging out with me at home. That would be an exaggeration. But I do think she would say I have a lot fewer bad days than I used to and most of my bad days are not nearly as ridiculous as they used to be.

Am I currently satisfied with the job I have done as a football coach? No. But do I believe that someday God will provide that for me? Yes.

So, yes, I am very thankful for Coach Dungy and the big difference he has made for me. But, even more so, I am thankful beyond words that I am in love with and married to a wonderful woman.

“Uncommon” and “Quiet Strength” were written by Coach Dungy with Nathan Blake and published by Tyndale.


This column originally ran in the Maysville Ledger Independent and was edited by Zack Klemme.