Summer 2024

Justin Dungy, son of Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy, heads to Butler 'dialed in on God'

Justin Dungy considers himself the “lucky child.”

He’s one of 10 children of Tony and Lauren Dungy — three biological and seven adopted. Justin was adopted right after his birth, before the 2006 NFL season, Tony’s fifth as the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. Perhaps thanks to baby Justin’s influence, that season became historic. The Colts won Super Bowl XLI, the franchise’s first championship since relocating to Indianapolis, and Tony became the first African American coach to win a Super Bowl.

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Ten years later, Justin influenced Tony to go to San Francisco for that year’s Super Bowl, and where the Class of 2016 would be revealed for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Tony did not want to go; he was in his third year of eligibility and didn’t think he’d get selected.

“I told him, ‘Oh Dad, I really want to go, not because of the Super Bowl, but because I know this is your year that you’re going to go to the Hall of Fame. I really just want to be there for that moment when you get the knock on the door,'” Justin told Sports Spectrum. “And he said no, but my mom talked him into letting me go, so I was the only kid out of the family that went.

“It was the day where they knock on doors and let you know. It was getting really late and I was just thinking to myself, ‘Did I do all that talking and he didn’t get in?’ Then it really happened, and I just started busting out crying because I’m so proud of him and seeing everything that he’s accomplished. That was probably just the coolest thing in the world.”

That lucky child is now going to college. A 5-foot-10, 155-pound cornerback from Carrollwood Day High School in Tampa, Florida, Justin has committed to Butler University in Indianapolis. In his public announcement in February, Justin first thanked his “Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, because without Him none of this is possible.”


Faith in Christ was always prevalent in the Dungy household. Tony and Lauren are bold and vocal believers. They’ve attended Grace Family Church in Tampa for more than a decade, and Justin remembers his parents hosting Bible studies at their house every Wednesday for about five years. Justin says he’s always been close with God, but feels as if he’s presently as close as he’s ever been with Him.

“Of course, everyone as a kid will say that that’s what they want to do with their life, commit to Him, but they don’t really mean it,” Justin said. “I would say after my last [high school] football game, I wasn’t highly recruited and I just went to my mom crying and I told her that my football career is done; I have nothing going for me. She just told me that God has a plan for me.

“That’s when I really just didn’t worry about anything else going on in the world — it was just me and God. And a couple of days later, I got offered by Toledo and then [other offers] just started coming in. Just seeing how God flipped my life like that [is amazing]. Now I’m going to college, playing football, getting a great education. That’s really when I’ve just dialed in on God.”

He chose Butler for a number of reasons, one being that he was born in Indy, lived there for three years before his family moved to Tampa, and still has family in the area, along with some of Lauren’s friends who “said they would cook for me whenever,” a big perk. He’s also excited to help strengthen the football program so that Butler becomes known for more than just basketball.

But “a big, big reason” was also that Indianapolis and Butler have a great Athletes in Action program, which is a nationwide ministry that focuses on growing coaches and athletes physically, mentally and spiritually.

“They’re not a Christian school, but they have a lot of Christ-followers there,” Justin said of Butler.

How Justin will grow in his faith journey is what Tony is most looking forward to with his son going off to college.

“I am really more excited to see how Justin develops spiritually than athletically,” Tony told Sports Spectrum. “I look back at my own college career and I didn’t grow as much spiritually as I did academically and athletically, and I don’t want that to happen to him. I want him to connect with the chaplain and I also pray he makes friends with teammates and other students who have Christ first in their lives.”


Just as Tony has coached Justin in his faith, he’s also coached his son in football. While Justin began his high school football career as a quarterback, he was switched to cornerback as a sophomore. That’s somewhat similar to Tony’s football career, as he played QB at the University of Minnesota before switching to safety in the NFL.

Tony wasn’t drafted, but was picked up as a rookie free agent in 1977 by the Pittsburgh Steelers, with whom he spent two seasons and won a Super Bowl in 1978-79. He spent the 1979 season with San Francisco, and retired from playing in 1980 after getting cut by the New York Giants.

He quickly got into coaching by returning to the University of Minnesota and leading the defensive backs, a role he took on with the Steelers the next season — the start of a 28-year NFL coaching career. Fifteen of those years were spent as an assistant, the last 13 as a head coach in Tampa (1996-2001) and Indianapolis (2002-2008).

When Justin was asked to play cornerback, he had never played the position before. But he knew who could help him.

“These last couple of years, my dad, we would go to the neighborhood park and get some drills and he’d teach me what I need to be looking at and how to actually play corner,” Justin said. “So I would say that he’s had a huge impact; him as well as my head coach [at Carrollwood, Marshall McDuffie, a former Florida International defensive back].”

Justin Dungy

Justin Dungy (center) with (from right) his younger brother Jason, father Tony, mother Lauren, and high school coach Marshall McDuffie. (Photo by Ravi Kiluk)

Playing Division I football has long been the dream for Justin, who says he always looked up to his older brother Eric Dungy, who played at the University of Oregon. Justin was a “sports junkie” who played all kinds of sports growing up, but he focused on football when he got to high school because he knew that’s what he wanted to pursue in college.

At Butler, he’ll join a Division I Football Championship Series program playing in the Pioneer Football League, and coming off a second straight 7-4 season. In 2023, their three conference losses came by only a combined 13 points. Justin will join a defense that was the best in the PFL, allowing just 193 points in 11 games (17.5 points per game).

“When you think of Butler, you think of what they’ve done basketball-wise. State of Indiana, it’s a basketball state,” Justin said. “So just having the chance to go to Butler and really have people watching football and seeing what we can do [is what’s exciting]. They did really good last year, and I just think this is our time over these next couple of years to really make Butler a football school.”

Justin will report to Butler on June 23, and the Bulldogs will kick off their 2024 season on Aug. 31 in Indianapolis against Upper Iowa University.

>> Do you know Christ personally? Learn how you can commit your life to Him. <<

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