STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
Football players and coaches are busy preparing for another season. Tony Dungy is busy giving advice. The Super Bowl winner retired from his coaching job with the Indianapolis Colts, said he wanted more time for the ministry and for counseling. This month, he appears on movie screens for the Red Zone, a motivational program for high school players.
He is also giving advice to Michael Vick. The former Atlanta Falcon spent more than a year in prison for involvement in dog fighting. Now Michael Vick is looking for a team that will let him back into the NFL, and Tony Dungy agreed to counsel Vick, partly because of the way they met five years ago.
Mr. TONY DUNGY (Former NFL Football Coach): We were in Japan. Our team, the Colts, was playing against his team, the Falcons, and so we talked about things and life and found out that he liked to fish as I do. And we had talked about getting a fishing trip together at some point back in the States, and it never really materialized. And after the dog fighting allegations came out, I always wondered if I had an eight-hour trip with him, fishing somewhere, just the two us, would that have come up and what he was doing, and lifestyle decisions -maybe I could have helped him out and helped him to make some better decisions. So I…
INSKEEP: Maybe he would have invited you to a dog fight.
Mr. DUNGY: Yeah, you know, or something like that and I would have said, hey, are you really doing that? And think about what your role is with the Falcons, what your role is to our young kids. You know, you've got to be careful there. And I always had second thoughts about that. So I went into visit him at Leavenworth, probably the last month he was incarcerated. And we had a long talk about how he got to that position growing up, decision making, what was going to have to happen for him to really turn it around when he got out.
And we kind of made an agreement that we would stick together, stay in touch with each other. So it's been a good experience for me. I've talked to a lot of young men over my 28 years as a coach, and Mike's no different than many. He made a mistake. He's looking just to get back to his normal life, and I'm just going to try to help him do that.
INSKEEP: I think this story has gone way beyond sports fans. There are people who barely pay attention to the NFL who are expressing opinions on this, and I'm just wondering what you would say to somebody who say, come on. I mean, he didn't just break the law. He was fighting dogs. And he wasn't just fighting dogs, there were dogs being tortured and killed. Come on.
Mr. DUNGY: Well, I think you have to understand how that happens. And I deal with - or dealt with for 30 years young men who did things that you and I would never do. And it's easy to say, oh, come on. You know, no one would ever do that. But there are places where dog fighting, as horrible as it sounds, is not looked at as anything abnormal. And I think he does realize now that it was wrong. He's going to be making appearances and doing seminars on what is wrong with it and how to steer young people away. So I would say, you know, don't judge and don't condemn. You know, be ready to give someone a second chance.
INSKEEP: Do you think teams have been avoiding signing Michael Vick?
Mr. DUNGY: I think there are a number of teams. And I would be hesitant, too, because it's going to bring a major distraction to your organization, and you are going to have some people who are not going to forgive. So I think it's going to take a strong team who says, you know what? We believe in second chances and, you know, we're going to try to help this young man. And we may lose a few fans.
INSKEEP: If you were still coaching and it was your call, would you take him onboard the Indianapolis Colts?
Mr. DUNGY: I would, personally. I think he committed a crime. He paid a penalty for it. I think he has learned from this. I think he would benefit from being with an organization like the Colts and a football family. And I think he would add something to it. So as a - if I were there, I would. I would take a chance on him.
INSKEEP: Well, Tony Dungy, it's good talking with you.
Mr. DUNGY: Thank you very much. I appreciate the forum to really talk about second chances and just our culture in general.
INSKEEP: Tony Dungy is the former coach of the Indianapolis Colts.
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