The Athletes in Action Super Bowl breakfast is an annual event sponsored by former Green Bay quarterback Bart Starr to recognize NFL players on the basis of character and service. In February 2006, the day before Super Bowl XL, the award was presented to New York Jets running back Curtis Martin. Tony Dungy delivered the keynote address, who a year later would be handed the Vince Lombardi Trophy as head coach of the champion Indianapolis Colts.
On that particular Saturday morning, Dungy spoke of the two things closest to his heart, and neither had anything to do with the National Football League. His two great passions of family and faith were evident, for just weeks before Dungy had buried James, his oldest son.
Said Dungy, “He was struggling with the things of the world and took his own life. People ask how I could come back to work so soon. I’m not totally recovered, I don’t know if I ever will be, it’s still ever-painful. But some good things have come out of it.”
Dungy spoke of the many kindnesses that were shown to him and his family, and also of changed lives and attitudes. “I met a guy the next day after the funeral. He said, ‘I was there. I heard you talking. I took off work today. I called my son. I told him I was taking him to the movies. We’re going to spend some time and go to dinner.’ That was a real, real blessing to me."
He spoke of letters he had received. "People heard what I said and said, ‘Hey, you brought me a little closer to my son,’ or, ‘You brought me a little closer to my daughter. That is a tremendous blessing."
The family donated their son’s organs through a donor program, and Dungy commented, "We got a letter back two weeks ago that two people had received his corneas, and now they can see. That’s been a tremendous blessing."
He spoke of a letter he received from a friend of his son who had attended the funeral. "When I saw what happened at funeral, and your family and the celebration and how it was handled, that was the first time I realized there had to be a God. I accepted Christ into my life and my life’s been different since that day. That was an awesome blessing, so all of those things kind of made me realize what God’s love is all about."
This man of faith was clearly looking beyond the pain of the moment to find the will of the Divine, but this experience led him to a profound understanding that he felt compelled to share with his audience that day.
“If God had talked to me before James’ death and said his death would have helped all these people, it would have saved them and healed their sins, but I would have to take your son, I would have said no, I can’t do that.
“But God had the same choice 2,000 years ago with His Son, Jesus Christ, and it paved the way for you and me to have eternal life. That’s the benefit I got, that’s the benefit James got and that’s the benefit you can get if you accept Jesus into your heart today as your Savior.”
For more details on Dungy’s address, go to www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=22595