TAMPA — When former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy began volunteering at Grace Family Church in Lutz, the staff at first asked him to help direct traffic before and after worship services.
But he made things worse in the parking lot, said Craig Altman, the church’s lead pastor. Too many people wanted to stop and speak with him. “The problem was he created more traffic problems,” said Altman, smiling.
The church eventually gave him other jobs, and now he and his wife, Lauren Dungy, are there every weekend, greeting people and getting involved any way they can.
“They believe in a local church,” Altman said Saturday morning before the Dungys took the stage at the church to talk about their newest book, “Uncommon Marriage.”
The couple is so loyal to their “home church” that they made a special stop there during their book tour to share advice and lessons they learned during 31 years of marriage.
The couple have an uncommon marriage, Lauren Dungy told the crowd of about 1,000 people. But it’s not a perfect one.
“We certainly aren’t marriage experts,” she said.
During their talk, the couple spoke about how they maintained their relationship as they moved around the country for Tony Dungy’s job as an NFL player and coach while also raising nine children. They have a designated date night every week, and nights designated to spending time as a family.
“You have to really emphasize putting energy into that marriage,” Tony Dungy told the crowd.
Tony Dungy was head coach of the Bucs from 1996 until 2001. Then, while his family remained in Tampa, he became head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, where in 2007 he became the first black head coach to lead a team to a Super Bowl victory. He retired from coaching in 2009 and now works as an analyst for NBC’s “Football Night in America.”
Lauren Dungy said she was her husband’s biggest fan, whether he won or lost a game. And though it’s harder to forgive your spouse than it is to forgive a friend or a co-worker, holding onto grudges and arguing about little things doesn’t help a marriage. Fighting never gets a couple anywhere, she said.
“I’ve given him the silent treatment, but it doesn’t work,” she said. “I don’t think it bothers him.”
Tony Dungy said he was speaking directly to the men in the room when he took the podium, after surprising his wife with a bouquet of roses and a photo montage of their years together.
A successful marriage takes more than flowers, he said, although those are important. Be willing to make sacrifices for your family, he told the crowd, and instead of complaining or being critical, encourage your wife to be a better person and she will do the same in return.
“Make those halftime adjustments and you can become the Christ-like husband that God intended you to be,” Tony Dungy said.
The 218-page “Uncommon Marriage,” is not the first book for either of the Dungys. Tony Dungy has written three other books and Lauren Dungy authored a bestselling children’s book.
They enjoyed working on this latest book together, Tony Dungy said after the discussion.
“It brought back a lot of memories,” he said. “We really talked about what was important.”
In the book, the couple addresses everything from Tony Dungy’s demanding career and public scrutiny, to adoption and how the suicide of their eldest son affected their marriage.
They wanted to “put themselves out there” and be transparent about their marriage in hopes they could help other couples experiencing the same things, Lauren Dungy said.
“We just wanted to show people that marriage is valuable, it is doable and it is worthwhile,” Tony Dungy said.