Legendary coaches Tony Dungy, Dabo Swinney on how they follow Christ while leading a team

Former NFL coach Tony Dungy and current Clemson Tigers coach Dabo Swinney are no strangers to football success. On Wednesday evening, both men joined a special coaches edition of Huddle Up to give viewers an inside look at how they each remained true to who they are in Christ while they built championship-caliber football teams.

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On this episode of Huddle Up, a weekly virtual sports gathering hosted by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Sports Spectrum, Dungy and Swinney talked about how they operate a football program with Christ firmly at the center. Swinney’s wife, Kathleen, joined her husband on the chat, and the Huddle Up hosts were former NFL tight end Benjamin Watson and his wife, Kirsten.

“‘Christian’ has to describe you all the time, and that’s what [my wife] Lauren and I really try to live out,” Dungy said. “We have to be Christians and put Christ first. We’re not always going to have the same idea on how to do everything, but if we focus in on Jesus and letting Him direct us, it’s going to take us to the same path.”

Dungy spent his entire coaching career in the NFL and won Super Bowl XLI as the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts in 2007. Meanwhile, Swinney has spent his entire coaching career in the collegiate ranks, first becoming a head coach at Clemson in 2008 and winning two national titles (2016, 2018) with the Tigers.

Both leaders emphasized the importance of prioritizing their families and their walk with Christ over football, even in crunch time of a season. Swinney said he schedules months in advance so that he and his staff can spend time with their families and with the Lord. If he doesn’t, he would be tempted to neglect what is most important.

“[My coaching staff] starts every day with a devotion,” Swinney said. “It goes around the room and everybody has an opportunity to speak. It could be spiritual, it could just be inspirational, it could be whatever.”

Later, he added: “God has called us to be Christians in everything we do, and I don’t think you can turn that off.”

Swinney said if he does not develop his players, not only into better players on the field but better men off of it, he feels like he has lost.

“I hope that they see Christ in me as I do my job. I hope that they see the light of Jesus through me as I do my job that God’s called me to do,” Swinney said, later adding: “We’re called to love people. We’re called to serve people. And our whole philosophy of our program is to serve their heart and not their talent.”

Dungy agreed, citing a lesson he learned from his mentor with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Chuck Noll, to avoid making football everything in life.

“I hope my legacy would be someone who helped people develop as athletes, but more importantly,” he said, “as people and as Christians.”

Swinney said true peace can only be found in Christ and His finished work on the cross, not by piling up football victories.

“The hope of the world — it’s not in politics and it’s not in a new president. It’s not in a stimulus package, it’s not in anything. The hope of the world is Jesus — always has been, always will be,”  he said.

Ben and Kirsten brought the conversation to a close with a Gospel presentation and an encouragement for viewers to repent and put their faith in Christ. Dungy ended the chat with a prayer of thanksgiving for the free gift of eternal life with God.

The full Huddle Up episode can be seen on FCA’s YouTube channel.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” — Colossians 3:23

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