He will forever be known as the Bucs head coach who brought a winning culture back to Tampa Bay, and earlier this week the franchise decided that Tony Dungy will be their latest inductee into their “Ring of Honor.”
And fittingly, the team will take advantage of their Monday Night Football home game in September with the Steelers (Dungy’s former team as a player and an assistant coach) to honor him at halftime.
Florio asked Dungy about what “gratified” him the most about his time in Tampa Bay, and Dungy replied, “Just making Tampa relevant, again. The ’96 season, coming there. Talking to our players about winning, but also about being part of the community.”
Dungy continued, “And then, the ’97 season when we started winning (when the Bucs started 5-0 and eventually made the playoffs for the first time in 16 years) and people got onboard, the stadium started to fill up, people started buying jerseys, and identifying with the team again, it was really a special time.
“Probably, the most fun year I had in football. Period.”
The feeling is obviously mutual from the Glazers who hired Dungy, and still own the team and wanted to finally, honor him this year. And there are still legions of Bucs fans who adore Dungy, who still lives in Tampa, while retired and doing broadcasting, for that turnaround in the late 90’s.
That turnaround included turning Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks into Hall of Famers already, plus his former Bucs John Lynch and Ronde Barber are under consideration for Canton, too.
You throw in the likes of Mike Alstott, Hardy Nickerson, Paul Gruber, Warrick Dunn, etc., the Bucs playoff team in four of Dungy’s six seasons, including the 1999 narrow NFC Championship Game loss to the eventual Superbowl Champion St. Louis Rams.
It’s a legacy that is still going strong for the Buccaneers on and off the field in Tampa Bay.
And Tony Dungy is a big reason for that.
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