RUSH: I have been looking forward to the next few minutes ever since this interview with Coach Tony Dungy was put together. Recently retired from the Indianapolis Colts, coming off the million copies of his first book Quiet Strength. This book is Uncommon, is the title, Finding Your Path to Significance, the subtitle. Coach Dungy, welcome here. I can’t tell you how thrilled and honored I am to be able to speak to you, sir.
COACH DUNGY: Well, thank you, Rush. I feel the same. It’s great being on with you and thank you for having me.
RUSH: I have to ask you about this. On the flier, the inside panel of the cover, from your coach at the University of Minnesota, Cal Stoll. ‘Success is uncommon. Therefore, not to be enjoyed by the common man.’ He said, ‘I’m looking for uncommon people.’ Now, I find it fascinating because we in this country, we want success to be common, and unfortunately the coach here is right. Success is an uncommon thing. People who write books on how to be successful make a lot of money. How did you do interpret that when the coach said that to you?
COACH DUNGY: Well, it made a big impact on me because you come in. I was 17-years-old, a freshman, I’m coming in with 34 other guys, and he sits us down and says, ‘Hey, everybody is coming here. You think it’s going to be great. You’re excited. We’re excited to have you, but not all of you are going to succeed, and the guys that are going to succeed are going to do it with uncommon effort. They’re going to do it with uncommon drive — and you can’t be average. You can’t desire to be average, to go with the crowd. Those people are going to fall by the wayside, and that’s what I’m looking for,’ and it kind of had an impact on me right away, because I did. I came in and figured, ‘Hey, everybody is going to be the same. We’re all going to do great,’ and he was saying, ‘No. Greatness doesn’t come. It doesn’t just happen.’
So that’s stuck with I think all 35 of those freshmen. It made me think. He also expanded on it. He said, ‘How can you be uncommon? That’s what I’m looking for.’ He said, ‘Number one, you can have a talent that sets you apart. You can be faster, bigger, stronger, throw farther but that’s only going to be 1% of the world. Most people have to be uncommon by having the desire to do things that everyone else could, but doesn’t.’ That part stuck with me. Then four years later I go to the NFL and Coach Noll, my coach for the Steelers in his first meeting said, ‘This is a great game. I want you to enjoy it, but it’s not life, and it’s not your life’s work. You have to have some passion outside of football where you’re going to devote your life to, to make things better, to make your community better.’ So that was kind of the basis for this book, taking those two thoughts: What can you do to set yourself apart, to not just flow with the crowd; and what is your life’s work going to be, what do you really want to do to make the world better?
RUSH: In our culture today — and I think this is largely a product of the Baby Boom generation, which was raised, for the most part, with economic abundance, economic opportunity. The Baby Boom generation — and I’m a member of it — has had the freedom and the time to be so self-focused, that we’ve gotten to a point now in our country in too many segments of it, where we’re trying to reward average because we say average has been victimized. The average people are victims of the people who have been successful. Do you find it in any way contradictory to stand so strongly for uncommon success when all around us is an effort to reward averageness?
COACH DUNGY: Well, I think it’s easy to fall into that situation where you think that’s good, that’s okay, and because that’s where most people fall, that should be rewarded. But I think as a country we’ve always taken that approach that you should strive to excel. We want to be the greatest country and we just gotta put that in the right parameters. ‘What does that mean?’ and the same thing for an individual. You want to be significant. You want to do something special. But what does that mean? Is that just earning the most that you can? Is that just having the type of job that you want, or is it something more than that? I guess I’ve always looked at it as kind of the spiritual side of life, and what does it mean to really be significant? But I agree with you. I think there’s something wrong when you say that just being average, just getting by is okay.
RUSH: Well, let me ask you this, because I’m fascinated. You deal with professional athletes, and you’ve dealt with college athletes, football players, which I think football athletes are a unique group as compared to baseball or other team sports. Do you, when you look out over the country — and I’m sure this is part of your book — you believe that there are many more uncommonly successful people out there who are still average. They can reach uncommonness. They can reach success. They just don’t quite know how or they haven’t got the right mentors?
COACH DUNGY: Absolutely. I think the potential in so many, especially our young people today, I see it. They have tremendous abilities, tremendous potential, but they’ve kind of been given the idea that, ‘I can just go along with the crowd. Everyone else is doing this, so why do anything to set myself apart?’ And I don’t know where that comes from. That’s the great thing about athletics. The guys that come to us have that drive to set themselves apart. That’s what makes a Super Bowl champion. That desire that, ‘I don’t want to come in second place. I want to do everything in my power to get to be the best,’ and I think if we take that attitude and point it towards significant things, not just winning football games or not just making money, we can, you know, have a country that is uncommon.
RUSH: Well, that’s in fact what you want to do now that you’ve left the National Football League. You want to work in your ministry. You want to work with disadvantaged people and you want to try to tell them and teach them what you’ve learned and be their spark, correct?
COACH DUNGY: That is for me, and I saw just in the last couple of years in Indianapolis we had this past year the highest homicide rate that we’ve had in the summer. It was the worst three months in the history of the city. We’ve right now in the public school a 19% graduation rate with males in the Indianapolis public school. And I talk to these kids, and they’ve got so much more than that, that’s available to them. I just felt like I was sitting there reaching a group that was 22 to 35 years old, and I thought I could do a little bit more in reaching guys before they got to that point and helping younger kids tap in on that potential like so many people helped me.
RUSH: We’re talking to Coach Tony Dungy, author of the book Uncommon: Finding Your Path to Significance. Now, folks, I want to read you some of the parts. There are chapters, but they comprise parts. I want to go through these. There is not a wasted page in Coach Dungy’s book. ‘Develop Your Core’ is part 1. Part 2 is ‘Love Your Family.’ The chapters there are: ‘Fatherhood, How to Treat a Woman, Respect Authority. Part 3: Lift Your Friends and Others.’ It’s about friendship and the power of positive influence. Part 4 is ‘Your Full Potential. Part Five: Establish a Mission that Matters.’ Part 6… This is the one. Coach, I really want to ask you about this, because there’s so much of this in our culture today, both pop culture, professional culture, throughout society. You say, ‘Choose Influence over Image.’ Now, that’s a part, and there are four chapters in this part: ‘Respect for Yourself and Others, Sexual Integrity, Platforms, Role Model.’ Would you explain what you mean by ‘choosing influence over image’?
COACH DUNGY: I think right now our kids — and I have a 17-year-old, I have a 24-year-old, and then we have three young children, but they are very, very much into image. ‘What do I look like? What do people think I look like?’ You know, ‘I’ve gotta drive a certain car. I’ve gotta dress a certain way,’ all of those things that young people feel are important — and I probably was the same way to a certain extent. But that’s not the most important thing. And that’s what you try to get across, the influence and maybe you shaping what people should want to be like, as opposed to saying, ‘I want to be like someone else. I want to be like society says I should be.’
RUSH: Right. Choosing how you influence people rather than how they perceive you. But, you know, it’s not just kids. I mean, I work in the media. There is so much phoniness in the media, so many people that are just concerned with their image. When they’re not number one, they want a PR firm to tell people they are.
COACH DUNGY: (laughing) Yeah.
RUSH: It pervades our society in so many ways, and as such, nobody knows what’s real.
COACH DUNGY: I know when I was an assistant coach and I started interviewing for head coaching jobs I actually lost out on many jobs, several jobs, and the complaint that I got was, ‘Well, he doesn’t fit the mold of a head coach. He doesn’t look the part. He’s not gonna jump up and down. He’s not going to scream. He’s not going to motivate these guys the way they need to be,’ because they looked at my image and did not really look at what was inside of me. So I had a decision to make, I could say, ‘Well, okay. I’m going to change my image to try to get one of these jobs,’ or ‘I’m going to continue to be true to myself and hopefully somebody will recognize that,’ and that’s what happened. I made a decision I wasn’t going to change. I did end up getting the Tampa job, and that was one of the motivations for me over the last 13 years as a head coach, to show people that, ‘Hey, you don’t have to be like people perceive you should be in this job. I can be effective. I can put out a winning football team and maybe break the stereotype of what a coach should look like.’
RUSH: All successful people have gotten a break. There’s a moment in their lives where things fall correctly. What was yours? You look back through your whole life. Not just the Tampa head coach job, but you had to put in a lot of hard work before that. Who gave you your break, say, playing into coaching?
COACH DUNGY: The biggest break I got was really coming out of college. I was a quarterback in college. I hoped to go to the NFL, and I didn’t get drafted. I then became a free agent. I could sign with whoever I wanted to and I ended up going to Pittsburgh. They offered me a contract, and that’s where I hooked up with, first of all, a great group of Christian players that kind of helped me develop my character, but I also met Chuck Noll there, and he taught me as a player. He talked about doing something significant in life — your life’s work and not just playing football. But then he gave me the chance to go in his coaching staff at 25 years old and taught me how to be a coach.
RUSH: Interesting. That is fascinating. And the Steelers are in the Super Bowl this weekend, which we’ll talk about with Coach Dungy and some other things after this brief time-out. Again, Coach Tony Dungy and his new book, Uncommon: Finding Your Path to Significance.
RUSH: We’re talking with Tony Dungy, coach of the National Football League Indianapolis Colts, recently retired, about his great new book. Uncommon: Finding Your Path to Significance. Part 6 of the coach’s book is ‘Live your Faith,’ and the chapters there are ‘Eternal Self-esteem’ Relationship With Christ’ Faith, Purpose, Significance.’ I have a question for you about ‘purpose,’ because you’re talking here about common people becoming uncommon, enjoying greatness and success. I was fortunate in my life. I knew when I was nine or ten what I wanted to do, and for the sake of discussing your book, I’ll call it my purpose.
COACH DUNGY: Okay.
RUSH: What do you do tell people who don’t know what their purpose is, and how do you tell them to find it?
COACH DUNGY: Well, you know what? That’s not all that odd. Many people, my kids are going through the same thing now. I’ve got a daughter who’s 24 who really thinks she knows what she wants to do, but is not quite sure, and you’ll find it. I think it’s a combination of what the Lord gives you. He gives you desires and things you enjoy, and then He gives you things that you’re gifted at; and at some point, those things are going to come together. That opportunity is going to come in an area that you enjoy, that you have a passion about, and that you’re good at. You just have to keep seeking that until it becomes evident, but I think the Lord makes it pretty clear to you.
RUSH: Did you know your purpose before Coach Noll said, ‘This is football. You’ve gotta start thinking about your life’s work’? Did you know what your purpose was when he said that?
COACH DUNGY: No, I really didn’t at the time. I felt like I wanted to play for about ten years and then go into business. I was a business major at the University of Minnesota, so in the off-season back then — my players laugh now when I tell them the story, but — we all had off-season jobs. I worked at Mellon Bank one year. I went to Heinz, to Dayton Hudson. I tried all these different jobs, and I enjoyed them and I was using my education, but I never — that spark never lit. I thought I was going to have about six or seven more years to figure that out. I got traded a couple times, eventually got cut and I was at the end of my football career, and Coach Noll called me, and he said, ‘I think you’ve got a real aptitude for this game, and would you like to try coaching?’ The first day I was on the job, I couldn’t wait to get back the next day, and that’s when I knew I wanted to be a coach.
RUSH: You guys work such long hours. When did you find time to write this book, Coach? I mean, you had to put this book together at least in the last season and a half, and I know that you were traveling to Tampa every Friday for your son’s football games and so forth and going back to Indianapolis, or traveling on the road for games. And this is not an insignificant book. I mean how did you find time to do this?
COACH DUNGY: Well, that was another lesson I learned from Coach Noll. We work a lot of hours in the NFL, but I don’t work as many hours as maybe some people do, and he always felt that you had to have time away from the game, you had to have family time, and he was successful doing it. I just really made it maybe a little bit more efficient in how we do it, and maybe just a little more secure in being able to say, ‘I don’t have to be there 18 hours to prove to people that we’re working hard.’ So I don’t think… Maybe I don’t have the hours that some people have, but it was a project of love. Nathan Whitaker, who wrote the book with me, we did a lot of back-and-forth, communicating facts and talking on the phone. It did take a while, but it was something that we enjoyed doing, and we did it throughout most of the off season.
RUSH: Ah. All right. Coach Dungy is with us. His new book is Uncommon: Finding Your Path to Significance. Coach, I want to ask you something because I checked my e-mail here during the interview and there are some people who want to ask for clarification on the quote from your first coach at Minnesota, Cal Stoll, who said, ‘Success is uncommon.’ There are a lot of people think that America is made up of a lot of successful people, that that’s what determines and has determined America’s greatness. Yet your coach said that success is uncommon. I guess this depends on how we define success.
COACH DUNGY: That’s exactly right. You know, you have to look at that, what is really successful, and he talked about that — to and elaborate on it, that — success is really fulfilling your potential. It’s not how many games you win. It’s not the fact that you were a Pro Bowl player or you weren’t. What did you have the potential to do? And if you came close to that, if you maximized that, then you were a success in God’s eyes. So many us do things that the world would say is successful, but we have so much more potential.
RUSH: Let me ask you about the Super Bowl, if you have a couple of minutes here.
COACH DUNGY: I do.
RUSH: You’re going to be working the pregame for NBC, or some of the game itself?
COACH DUNGY: I’m actually doing the pregame show for NBC, yes.
RUSH: And you’re doing that with Coach Holmgren?
COACH DUNGY: Yes.
RUSH: And they’ve added a couple of other people. It’s a crowded field. I’m amazed, Coach. I watch former coaches who go into television talking about the game, and I’m a fan. I love the National Football League. They end up talking about the game the way I do, and I’ve never played it. I’ve never been involved in it. I guess there’s some things that you have to keep close to the vest, especially if you want to get back into the game, but this game, National Football League particularly, is so… I think even though it’s the most-watched game on television, if people could watch one of these games on the sidelines — see the speeds, the collisions and so forth, the average American, speaking of average. The average successful American wouldn’t last one offensive series on National Football League.
COACH DUNGY: (chuckling)
RUSH: These guys are so tough that play this game.
COACH DUNGY: Well, it is, but it’s interesting you say that coaches talk about the game like you do because really that’s one of the secrets of the game. It’s not that complicated. We try to make it seem more complicated than it is. There are tenets that I learned, you know, 30 years ago from Coach Noll that are never going to change. And it’s really about getting people to be focused, to focus on the goal of winning and put team goals ahead of individual goals, and it’s not that hard to win. So I think that’s what people are trying to get across, but it is great athletes. These guys are so big now and so fast, so much different than even when I played 30 years ago.
RUSH: We’ve got a minute and a half, so we’ll get to the game itself. All of the conventional wisdom is the Steelers defense is what to watch here against Kurt Warner. Is that really where this game is going to hinge, do you think?
COACH DUNGY: I do think it’s going to be that way. How can Arizona’s offense — they don’t have to win the game, but they don’t have to make sure they don’t lose the game. Pittsburgh wins a lot of games on defense, and so while they’re trying to score and make big plays with their passing offense, Arizona can’t do things to lose the game. I think that’s going to be the key matchup.
RUSH: Is the hype on Larry Fitzgerald accurate? I mean, this guy’s being portrayed as indefensible. He’s going to… You triple coverage him, and he’s going to find a way to catch the ball.
COACH DUNGY: No, that’s not true. A lot of times that happens, you know, we — we — He’s hot right now, and he’s had some big games, but the Steelers will go in, I believe, saying they’re going to make someone else beat them, and the other guys are going to have to step up. They’ll find a way to limit him for sure.
RUSH: It sounds like you think the Steelers are going to win this.
COACH DUNGY: Well, I like the experience factor. They’ve got a lot of guys who have been there before, but Arizona has got some key components. Their coach was in Pittsburgh. He understands that defense. He’s practiced against it. There’s a good friend of mine, Edgerrin James, who I’m hoping can get a Super Bowl ring because he didn’t get his with us. He played for us for a number of years, and I’d like to see him win, and he’s a big game player. And Arizona is hot right now so it’s going to be a tight game, but I think that Pittsburgh may just win out.
RUSH: Coach, thank you so much. This has been a real thrill for me. I’ve wanted to meet you and talk to you for the longest time and I can now say I’ve done it. Coach Tony Dungy and the book is Uncommon, and it’s worth reading.