Tony Dungy's 'Uncommon' Path to Excellence

Tony Dungy reveals lessons on achieving significance in his new book.

Jan. 27, 2009 — -- Super Bowl winning coach Tony Dungy has penned a new book reflecting on what it takes to achieve significance. In "Uncommon: Finding Your Path to Significance," the man who was the first and only African-American coach to win the Super Bowl reveals the lessons he's learned during his lenghty coaching career.

Read an excerpt of "Uncommon" below and find out about his book tour below.


Chapter 1

In 1998, the Indianapolis Colts were confrontedwith a dilemma. Finishing the prior season with three winsagainst thirteen defeats, they held the first pick in the NFLdraft that April. Their selection would affect the direction ofthe team for years to come, positively or negatively. At thetime, I was head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, so I wasworried about my team in Tampa, and didn't realize what ahuge impact the Colts' selection would have on my life.Bill Polian, president of the Colts, was faced with a difficultchoice between two great talents: Ryan Leaf and PeytonManning. Both were big players with strong arms: Leaf hadset numerous records at Washington State University, andManning had done the same at the University of Tennessee.In hindsight, it seems like an obvious choice, but at thetime there was plenty of debate. Media analysts and scoutsaround the league were split evenly, but Bill decided to selectManning. There was no question Peyton had the physicalskills to be a great player, but what tipped the scales in Bill'smind were Peyton's work ethic, his love for the game, hisapproach toward football as a job, and his quiet private life.Ultimately, when faced with the choice that would definethe course of the franchise, the Colts based that decision oncharacter, and that choice has resulted in great success for usand for our future Hall of Fame quarterback.

For the Colts, character is a quality that can be measuredjust like height, weight, and speed. In fact, we put moreemphasis on this area than we do on physical tools. Coachingability or talent cannot make up for a lack of character. In thedraft, there are only a few things that will knock a player outof consideration for our team, and this issue of character isone of them. We have a category on our evaluation form thatis labeled "DNDC"—Do Not Draft because of Character. Everyyear, many players that we put in that category get draftedin the first round by other teams, and some even go on tobecome household names in the NFL. But we pass on thembecause of something we see in their character that makes usbelieve they are not worth the risk. Most of the time, we'reright. And those times when we are make it worth even thosetimes when we're not.

That's not necessarily the common approach today,though. So often there is such an emphasis on results that itdoesn't matter how you get them. Moving up is more importantthan the way you move up. It doesn't matter what kindof person you are, just what kind of player you are. It doesn'tmatter if you follow the rules or break them, just as long asyou come out on top. After all, that's what everyone willremember at the end of the day. That's why we have to havesteroid testing in the NFL. That's why medals are forfeitedin the Olympics. Competitors have to ask themselves: Sinceeveryone is doing it, if I want to have a legitimate chance, I have todo it too, right?

What you do is not as important as how you do it. Those arethe words that keep coming back to me when I am tempted tochoose what is expedient over what is right. People who bendthe rules to get ahead usually get caught in the long run. Buteven if they don't get caught, they will always know how theymade it to the top. And at some deep-down level, they'll knowthat they're frauds and that maybe they didn't have what it tookto accomplish such achievements on a level playing field.The other problem is that, at some point, somebody whodoes care how the game is played—a boss, a board of directors—may well find out. For me as an employer, how you doyour job has always been more important than what you do.Can you be counted on to do things the right way? Do youhave the appropriate habits to get you through a tough situation,or are you the type to cut corners and hope things turnout all right? Your character will determine the answer.When I was growing up, my folks were very clear aboutthe importance of character. "Your word is your bond," mymom would say constantly. The thought that someone mightthink of her as unreliable or untrustworthy was the worst thingpossible. That's how she taught us to choose our friends—notby where they lived or what their parents did for a living. Shewanted us to have friends we could trust.

Today, I have friends of all ages, races, and economicbackgrounds. But my closest friends are people of high character—and I don't hang around with people I can't trust.My mom believed that a person's character reveals whathe or she really believes about life. It it important to be honest?Is it important to obey your parents all the time, or justimportant not to get caught disobeying? Is there a God whoreally rewards good character, or is it okay to do whatever ittakes to win?That motherly guidance has impacted me professionallyas well. Because of the premium my mom put on character,I look for it in the people I work with. My style in creating acoaching staff is to hire talented coaches and teachers and letthem do their jobs. This means that I have to have people Ican trust implicitly, because I'm not going to spend my timechecking on them. I don't want coaches or players who are notgoing to represent us well, either on or off the field.

Character begins with the little things in life. I must showthat I can be trusted with each and every thing, no matterhow trivial it may seem. By the time I was a teenager, my dadlet me stay out pretty late playing basketball with my friends.It didn't happen right away—I couldn't be out at midnightwhen I was thirteen. But gradually, my parents gave me alittle more freedom—and usually with someone they knewwould keep an eye on me. By the time I was sixteen or seventeen,they knew that if I said I was playing ball with mybuddies in East Lansing or Ann Arbor, that's exactly what Iwas doing and I wasn't involved in anything that could getme in trouble. They had watched me grow and had given meenough opportunities to test my character that, by then, theyknew they could trust me.

"Character may be manifested in the great moments, butit is made in the small ones," wrote Phillips Brooks, an Americanclergyman in the 1800s. Over time, we create ourselvesand build our character through the little acts we do.When it comes to character, the game of football can bea real test for our players. During any given season, they willhave many moments when their character will be challenged.Will they decide to do the right thing, even when they knowdoing so will be difficult?

Character can also be revealed at those same crossroads:what are the values that guide the decisions these players makein their day-to-day lives? Training camp reveals them early. Aperson's reaction to winning, success, fame, recognition, andacceptance reveals character. Would you rather be described assuccessful and famous or as honest, forgiving, faithful, trustworthy,understanding of others, reasonable, thoughtful, andpersonally accountable?Character is tested, revealed, and further developed by thedecisions we make in the most challenging times. We haveto know what is right, and we have to choose to do it. Thatis how character is developed—by facing those decisions andchoosing the right way over and over until it becomes secondnature. It's just how you do things.

Outwardly, character reflects an inner life committed tohonor and uncompromising integrity. If we haven't allowedour players, subordinates, or children to grow into those valuesand learn to be accountable for themselves, then we havedone them a disservice.

Albert Camus once said, "Integrity has no need of rules."I tend to agree. I don't have very many team rules for ourplayers. They know where I stand on things, and they knowthat there are consequences for breaking the rules that we dohave. I try to apply one set of rules uniformly for our team,while keeping in mind that the players are individuals andcome from different life experiences. Really, it's not any differentfrom what I do with my children.

Ultimately, character and its growth don't come from rulesbut from the small actions of responsibility that occur day afterday. That's why I believe it's important to give our players acertain amount of freedom—and the responsibility that goeswith it—to allow growth to take place. In the end, character isa blend of inner courage, wisdom, and a sense of duty to yourself,to others, and to something greater than you.

In a common world, becoming an uncommon man beginsby cultivating uncommon

'Uncommon' Book Tour Signings


232 E. Ridgewood Ave.

Ridgewood, NJ 07450

(201) 445-0726

Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2009 (3:00 – 4:30 PM)

Barnes & Noble Booksellers

97 Warren Street at Greenwich Street (Tribeca)

New York, NY 10007

(212) 587-5389

Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2009 (6:00 – 7:30 PM)

Last Licks

245 East 93rd Street (corner of 93rd and 2nd Ave.)

New York, NY

(646) 596-8566

Saturday, Jan. 31, 2009 (7:00 – 9:00 PM)

Barnes & Noble Booksellers (Carrollwood)

11802 North Dale Mabry Drive

Tampa, FL 33618

(813) 962-6446

Tuesday, February 3, 2009 (3:00 – 5:00 PM)


8675 River Crossing Blvd

Indianapolis, IN 46240

(317) 574-1775

Tuesday, February 3, 2009 (7:00 -9:00 PM)

Sam's Club 8168

7235 East 96th St.

Indianapolis, IN 46250

(317) 585-9452

Wednesday, February 4, 2009 (3:00 – 5:00 PM)

Family Christian Store 90

Coldwater Crossing Shopping Center

5509 Coldwater Road

Fort Wayne, IN 46825

(260) 484-9027

Wednesday, February 4, 2009 (7:00 – 9:00 PM)

Wal-Mart #4231

7502 Southtown Crossing

Fort Wayne, IN 46816

(260) 441-7071

Thursday, Feb. 5, 2009 (12:00 AM-2:30 PM)

Barnes & Noble IU Campus

900 East 7th Street

Bloomington, Indiana 47405

(812) 856-2665

Thursday, February 5, 2009 (6:00 – 8:00 PM)

Meijer #130

1425 West Carmel Drive

Carmel, IN 46032

(317) 573-8300

Friday, February 6 (3:00 – 5:00 PM)

Lifeway Christian Store

12689 Citrus Plaza Drive

Tampa, FL 33625

Located across from Westfield Shopping Town at Citrus Park

(813) 792-1377

Friday, February 6 (7:00 – 9:00 PM)

Books-A-Million Lakeland

1520 Towne Center Drive

Lakeland, FL 33803

(863) 688-6382

Saturday, Feb. 7, 2009 (9:00 AM-12:00 PM)

Ave Maria Book Store

222 Bryan Rd

Brandon, FL 33511

(813) 689-3561

Saturday, Feb. 21, 2009


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