By Joni B. Hannigan
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (BP)–When NFL Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy announced his retirement in 2009, two years after leading his team to the Super Bowl XLI Championship in Miami, Lauren Dungy was ready to welcome him home in Tampa.
And so were the children.
“The first couple of weeks, they would come home from school and say, ‘Dad — is he still here?'” Dungy said. “I mean they didn’t believe that he actually wasn’t going anywhere.”
And Coach Dungy, his wife said, was looking forward to the “routine of being dad, a full-time dad.”
In a brief interview after the NFL Super Bowl Breakfast Feb. 6, Dungy answered questions about life at home since her husband retired.
“Our children are thrilled,” Dungy said, of their brood which this year has grown to seven. The former coach, who with his family has stayed connected to Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Fla., while attending Central Tampa Baptist Church, has this year also been involved in his children’s school programs and enjoyed activities he hasn’t been able to in the past, Dungy said.
“It’s nice having him home more often,” Dungy said.
The youthful looking Dungy, an ambassador for iMom, an outreach of Tony Dungy’s popular Family First, said given that her husband had been a coach for the entire 26 years of their marriage there were some challenging adjustments.
“We had to transition,” Lauren Dungy laughed. “I had to realize and remember, ‘Now, OK I’m turning the reins back over, daddy’s home and it’s great to have him; he is the head of the household.”
Dungy admitted she is a strong woman and like many others who have husbands who are away from the home for days or weeks at a time, she was often the sole disciplinarian.
“I’m used to calling all of the shots and now it’s kind of neat to have Tony there to be supportive, to say he’s [the] father, he’s going to do it. But it was a bit of a transition,” she said.
A sweet reward was this past Thanksgiving when their home was full with 35 houseguests.
“We enjoyed it as a family and no one was running out the door to a meeting or to a football game,” Dungy said. “We were there from the beginning to the end.
It was a good time.”
It’s taken a lot of prayer and understanding over the years, Dungy said, to get to a point where she understands when confronted with so many people who “want a piece of” her husband not to respond with, “but he’s married and he’s dad to seven children. We want him here.”
“God is using him and will continue to use him mightily for His glory and His Kingdom, but part of that requires giving up Tony, and he’s not always here at home for us,” Dungy said. “I’ve learned to share him because he is so visible and so respected.”
With a hush in her voice, Dungy spoke of how much she admires her 84-yer-old mom, Doris and how much she has been an inspiration for her, “from the beginning.”
Dungy said her mom and dad, like her grandmother, had adopted children, which led her and Tony to adopt a number of their children.
“We have a rich history of adoption in our family. So I guess it was just the natural thing that I was just next in line and so Tony and I early in our marriage began as foster parents and went on to adopt,” Dungy said.
Of her mom, Dungy said, “She gives me wonderful advice. She’s very supportive, as are my brothers and sisters. It’s neat to have that support in the family.”
And with that kind of support, Lauren Dungy said she is able to host mission groups like the large children’s choir from Africa she housed recently.
More important, the Coach is in the house.
“Now dad is here and he’s home and he is now taking over again,” Dungy said. “And I welcome that and I’m so excited to have him back.”
Joni B. Hannigan is managing editor of the Florida Baptist Witness (www.gofbw.com), newsjournal of the Florida Baptist State Convention.