Tony Dungy is a nominee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2014 but that doesn’t mean fame precedes the former Indianapolis Colts coach in his first year of eligibility. A recent visit to a Tampa Fla. school was instructive.

Dungy had just finished reading to a third-grade class. A diminutive schoolgirl boldly approached.

“I want to be an author when I grow up just like you” Dungy’s 8-year-old admirer gushed innocently unaware of her hero’s proud record as a football coach.

Dungy could only grin. It took him back.

“Late in my coaching career when I talked about John Madden some of our players didn’t realize he had ever coached” said Dungy whose Colts won Super Bowl XLI and 10 or more games every season he spent in Indianapolis 2002-08. “They thought he just did (Madden NFL Football) video games and announced.

“I guess that shows that life always does move on.”

Dungy never doubted it. Even so he was cautious when he left the Colts five years ago. He said then that he wouldn’t say never to the possibility of a return to coaching.

He does now.

“Those first probably four years people would call and say ‘Hey we’re looking for a recommendation but first before we get into that would you have any interest?’ ” Dungy recalled. “That happened probably eight or 10 times in those first four years and I would say ‘No let’s talk about people you want to know about.’

“I didn’t get any (calls) this year and I would say never now.”

That’s because life is good. Life is full. There is so much to be done.

“Tony is doing the things he has done for all his career on the field now in retirement” said Bill Polian who first as Colts president and later as club vice chairman worked effectively with Dungy. “He is the conscience of the NFL.

“He is still parenting actively very proud of what (son) Eric is doing at the University of Oregon very involved in that doing a great job on NBC and most important continuing his lay ministry as maybe the most important sports figure in the world certainly in America.”

High praise but Dungy does impact lives. Mike Logan knows.

A 'difference-maker'
Logan was amid his 10-year NFL career when he made an offseason visit to Indianapolis in February 2003. He happened to pick up a copy of The Indianapolis Star. He turned to the sports section where he was hooked by a headline:

“Priorities in focus Colts’ Dungy makes no secret of how he ranks duties in his life: faith family and football.”

Logan read how Dungy struggling to make the roster his second season with the Pittsburgh Steelers 1978 was consigned to his dormitory room bed during training camp with mononucleosis. Dungy was desperate. He fought panic. He sought the counsel of his roommate veteran strong safety Donnie Shell.

“Maybe God is trying to get your full attention” suggested Shell who had brought Dungy into a Bible study group that included Hall of Fame wide receiver John Stallworth. “Maybe this is too big. Maybe it’s more than it ought to be. Maybe you’ve elevated it to first place in your life. The Lord takes what’s dear to your heart and tests you with it.”

Dungy listened. He reassessed and redirected. He gave his heart fully to God and against all odds he made the roster.

The story went on to recount Dungy’s quest for a head-coaching job and — prior to his hiring by Tampa Bay in 1996 — an interview with another club whose owner told Dungy he wanted a man of passion. The owner put it bluntly: “Is this the most important thing in your life?”

“I’m very passionate about it” Dungy replied. “I want to win. I plan to win. I plan to bring you a Super Bowl. But no it’s not nearly the most important thing and I’m not going to be here 24 hours a day.”

Dungy of course didn’t get that job but Logan reading of the encounter years later got the message.

“I was really going through some trials and tribulations at that time and thinking about my career and what might come after it” said Logan who then was playing for his hometown Steelers and wearing Shell’s old number 31.