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Dungy's death called an 'apparent suicide'

James, the 18-year-old son of coach Tony Dungy, was found by his girlfriend early Thursday at his apartment in Lutz.

Published December 22, 2005

TAMPA, Fla. - James Dungy, the 18-year-old son of Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, was found dead in a Tampa-area apartment, police said Thursday.

James Dungy's death was "apparently a suicide," said Dick Bailey, spokesman for the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office.

James Dungy's girlfriend found him when she returned to the Campus Lodge Apartments in Lutz, Fla., the Sheriff's Office said in a news release on its Web site. Police responded at 1:32 a.m. Thursday and performed CPR on Dungy before he was taken to University Community Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Tony Dungy has left the Colts and is in Tampa. The Colts (13-1) are at Seattle on Saturday, and team president Bill Polian said that assistant head coach Jim Caldwell has taken over for Dungy.

"The thoughts and prayers of everyone in this building are with Tony and (wife) Lauren, their children and their extended family, and for the repose of James' soul," Polian said at a news conference at the Colts' training facility in Indianapolis. "This is a tragedy for the Dungy family and by extension his football family here with the Colts."

Owner Jim Irsay and Polian met with team officials and players to break the news.

"It was not easy, and it was somber, to say the least," Polian said.

Caldwell will take over "for however long Tony will be away and however long he will be away is entirely up to him," Polian added.

Chaplains were brought in to talk with the team.

"I don't think there's anyone here that would wish to play a football game under these circumstances, but it's our obligation and we'll fulfill that obligation because that's what Tony wants us to do," Polian said.

The Dungys have four other children: daughters Tiara and Jade and sons Eric and Jordan. James, their second-oldest child, was taking extension classes at the University of South Florida, Morgan said.

James Dungy spent his senior year at North Central High School in Indianapolis and graduated this year. C.E. Quandt, the school's principal, said Dungy was a personable student who never flaunted his father's position.

"He just came in and tried to blend in and be a student," Quandt said. "I liked James a lot."

Quandt said Dungy visited North Central a week or two ago to pick up a transcript. He said the death surprised and saddened everyone at the school.

"It kind of diminishes our school family," he said.

James stood 6-foot-7 and was sometimes was mistaken for one of his father's players, the Indianapolis Star reported on its Web site. James and his younger brother, Eric, sometimes watched Colts games from the sidelines, but they had to earn it by doing well in school.

By 10:30 a.m., the scene of Dungy's death bore no obvious signs of what had occurred. Deputies and the medical examiner had long gone (though officers did return to tell reporters to keep their distance). No crime scene tape cordoned off the apartment building.

Reno Satterfield, regional manager for the Campus Lodge Apartments, said she had spoken to Dungy's neighbors, but no one had any information about what had happened overnight, other than what they had heard on the morning news. She asked reporters to leave the property and not disturb the residents.

Outside the apartment complex, people interviewed expressed surprise that Dungy lived there and sadness for his family.

Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio began a park dedication Thursday morning by asking for a moment of silence on behalf of Dungy.

The former Bucs coach is dear to the heart of Tampa, she said.

"We love him and his family," she said.

New York Jets coach Herman Edwards, one of Dungy's closest friends, called James a "very, very good kid.

"The whole family is good people. You know Tony, how he raised a family," Edwards said from Jets training camp in Hempstead, N.Y. "A tragedy. I know the prayers of the National Football League go out to him and his family."

Fans posted prayers and messages of support for Dungy, who also coached the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, on a message board on a Colts fan Web site.

"Not only was he a great football coach for the Bucs, but he is an even better person," one Tampa Bay fan wrote. "It makes me sick that it happened at this time of year to a person that is so giving and caring."

[Last modified December 22, 2005, 14:05:37]

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