Dungy Goes From Super Bowl Sundays to Bedtime Stories

Tony Dungy takes his values, story to world of children's books.

July 11, 2008 -- Some NFL coaches hit the golf course during the off-season. Others fish, or hunt. Joe Gibbs tends to his NASCAR team. Bill Parcells plays the ponies. Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy writes books.

Dungy became an unlikely New York Times Best Selling author with his memoir, "Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices, and Priorities of a Winning Life" in 2007, and he's at it again this summer with "You Can Do It."

But while the first book was an inspirational biography aimed at adults and published in the wake of his Super Bowl XLI victory, "You Can Do It" is a children's book.

That's right. A man whose profession is all about leading men in an ultra-violent contact sport is entering an arena populated by the likes of Dr. Seuss, Roald Dahl and E.B. White.

"I could never have pictured myself writing a book when I was 25 years old," Dungy told ABCNews.com. "My mom was an English teacher … but I wasn't that way growing up."

Growing up, it was all about football. Dungy starred at the University of Minnesota and spent three seasons in the NFL, playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers. He was the head coach of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccanneers from 1996-2001, and has lead the Colts since 2002, becoming the first African-American head coach to win a Super Bowl in 2007, when his Colts beat the Chicago Bears.

His foray into the world of literature represents a different kind of pioneering.

"I thought 'Quiet Strength' would be pretty well received in the areas that I had coached … but I had no idea it would have the national reach that it had. That made me realize that we do have a platform, that God has blessed us with an audience, and I ought to take advantage of it."

"You Can Do It," which hit bookstores earlier the week, is a 26-page children's book about a boy who struggles to follow in the oversized athletic footsteps of his older brother. After much trepidation, his family rallies around him and helps the boy find another, more academic, dream to pursue.

The story is based on Dungy's own childhood.

"It pretty much is a true story," Dungy said. "My brother followed me and everyone assumed he was going to go into athletics because I did, but he had other talents and other gifts, and I think my parents did a great job of really helping everybody find what they were gifted at."

Of course, it's impossible to consider Dungy writing a children's book that emphasizes parental involvement without recalling Dungy's own difficulties in parenthood. Dungy's son James committed suicide at the age of 18 while Dungy was coaching the Colts. Dungy is famous for his family values and close relationships with his children, and the tragedy sent shockwaves through the NFL, Dungy's family, and most of all, Dungy himself.

While Dungy declined to acknowledge the tragedy directly, he talked about examining the values in his books when faced with such difficult life setbacks.

"You have a lot disappointments: you have disappointments professionally, you have disappointments family-wise, things you'd like to do over, but you can't," Dungy said. "And that's what I talk to our team about a lot, and that's what I talk to our kids about a lot: How do you respond when you have a disappointment? You have to be able move forward, and I think that's what life is all about."

Dungy has moved forward at a remarkable clip since the tragedy, with a Super Bowl ring on his finger and a national best-seller under his belt. Now there is "You Can Do It," and Dungy says it won't be his last book.

In fact, he plans to switch audiences yet again.

"Depending on how this children's book is received, my wife and I really would like to do another one. But I also have in my heart to really do something directed at our young men, maybe 18-25, and talk about what it means to be a man growing up in our country and our society."

"That's one of the goals of this book: we have so many more young men in this country who didn't grow up with dads; so to really encourage moms, grandmothers, dads, everybody to be involved in their kids' lives is something I hope to do with this."

Dungy said his other hopes for "You Can Do It" are that it will encourage parents to read to their kids and that kids would learn the lesson of pursuing whatever field they are gifted in, even if it might not be the popular thing to do.

"I would also hope that kids would learn no matter what you're thinking about in terms of your future to have the Lord involved in your thought process and your decision making," he said.

Dungy has been a coach in the NFL for a total of 27 seasons, but he has become a famous writer in a matter of months. When asked if he was ready to call it quits on the sidelines and become a full-time author, Dungy laughed but responded candidly.

"The book does let me realize the impact you can really have, so that may speed the process up a little bit. I do have some things I'd like to do."