Former University of Minnesota star and Vikings defensive coordinator Tony Dungy became the first African American head coach to win a Super Bowl, when his Colts defeated the Bears in Super Bowl XLI on Feb. 4, 2007.
Dungy and former Bears head coach Lovie Smith became the first African American head coaches to take their team to a Super Bowl within a few hours the previous Sunday. Mike Tomlin (an assistant with the Vikings in 2006) became the second African American head coach to win the title game four years later when Pittsburgh defeated Green Bay in Super Bowl XLV.
Dungy, in a phone interview with Vikings.com last year, credited what he learned as Vikings defensive coordinator on Dennis Green's staff from 1992-95 with helping his future success. Green (1992-2001) became the third African American head coach in NFL history and second in the modern era, following Pro Football Hall of Fame members Fritz Pollard and Art Shell.
"I learned a lot from Chuck Noll, and my football philosophy probably came from my time with the Steelers, but in terms of being prepared to be a head coach, Denny Green did more for me than anybody," said Dungy, who starred collegiately at the University of Minnesota.
The job that Dungy did with the Vikings led to his opportunity to become head coach of the Buccaneers (1996-2001) and Colts (2002-08). In 13 seasons, Dungy posted a regular season record of 139-69 (.668) and made the postseason 11 times, including his final three in Tampa Bay and all seven in Indianapolis for an NFL-record 10-straight playoff berths by a head coach.
Dungy is one of 15 Modern-Era Finalists for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The inductees are scheduled to be decided today.
As time wound down on the Colts 29-17 win over the Bears, Dungy thought about multiple people who helped him reach that moment. He recalled:
*"I remember my dad talking about Joe Louis and Jackie Robinson and those watershed moments, and I do remember thinking this is going to be one of those moments. It's a shame, I had known so many coaches, from Eddie Robinson and John Merritt in the historically black schools to assistant coaches in the NFL, Lionel Taylor and [former Vikings Offensive Coordinator] Sherman Lewis and Jimmy Raye [Junior], guys who I thought would have been able to lead teams to the Super Bowl but never got the opportunity. *
"I just remember thinking Lovie and I got the chance, and we're going to be in a historic moment. I couldn't wrap my mind around it being looked at the same as some of those historic moments my dad talked to me about, but it was something special. It was great. I remember when the clock was winding down, there was probably about 45 seconds to go, and it looked like we were definitely going to win the game, and you start thinking about all the things that had to happen and go right for you to get there and the direction my dad gave me, and opportunities people had given me, and Coach Green and the training I got from him, all of those things went through my mind in those last 45 seconds. It was a thrilling moment."