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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
John Lynch remembers Tony Dungy's sons running around the locker room at One Buc Place. Herm Edwards recalls a 5-year-old James Dungy crawling into his lap in Kansas City.
Warm memories to ease the sorrow.
As news of 18-year-old James Dungy's death spread through the NFL community Thursday, people whose lives have been touched by Colts coach Tony Dungy and his family paused to express sympathy and share remembrances of a son they watched grow.
"I'm just terribly saddened, and my heart, my thoughts and my prayers go out to Tony and his family," said Lynch, a safety who played six of his 11 seasons in Tampa Bay under Dungy before joining the Broncos in 2004. "This is so tough."
The death is an apparent suicide, which stunned players and coaches who knew of Dungy's dedication to family in a sport that makes tremendous demands of a coach's time. James and younger brother Eric were frequent visitors to One Buc Place.
"They were always around playing with us and making us feel like kids," Lynch said. "Tony was as prepared as any coach I ever knew and still is, but he would come in at 8:20 every morning because he thought it was important to take his kids to school.
"In a business where people do often lose perspective, any time you speak to Tony, the first thing out of his mouth is, "How's your family?' And he tells you something about one of his kids. He has his priorities more straight than most people. Unfortunately, these things happen in all walks of life, and there's no way to explain it."
Bears coach Lovie Smith, whose first NFL job was coaching linebackers for Dungy in Tampa, addressed reporters in Chicago after Thursday's practice with tears welling in his eyes.
"On a personal note, our prayers and thoughts go out to the Dungy family," Smith said. "Jamie was a great, great kid. Tony's a man of faith, and of course, they will need it through a time like this.
"We'll all definitely miss him. Our kids grew up together, were ballboys together."
Edwards, in his fifth season as Jets coach, is among Dungy's closest friends, having coached with him in Kansas City from 1990-91 and Tampa Bay from 1996-2001. He has known Dungy's children since they were young.
James grew from a boy small enough to sit in his lap to a 6-foot-7 defensive end at Gaither High in Tampa. "They were very, very, very good kids," Edwards said. "The whole family is good people. I know how Tony raised the family.
"It's a tragedy. It kind of puts everything in perspective. You get all hung up in football, winning and losing. When you lose a child, that's tough. I can remember when he was sitting in my lap in Kansas City, and he ended up being taller than everybody."
Falcons general manager Rich McKay, who held the same position with the Bucs when Dungy was hired in 1996 and fired after the 2001 season, recalled James' bright personality. McKay and his wife, Terrin, have sons close in age to the Dungys'.
"Terrin and my boys cherished and appreciated the close relationship with the entire Dungy family," McKay said in a statement.
"I can tell you that Jamie was an outstanding young man whom I have very fond recollections of during our time together in Tampa. He was an upbeat fixture in and around the locker rooms and offices at One Buccaneer Place and one of the most pleasant kids I've ever been around."
Cowboys receiver Keyshawn Johnson got to know James well during the two seasons he played for Dungy with the Bucs.
"I'm sad to see it happen," Johnson said. "My regards go out to the family. I will try at some point to get in contact with some of his family."
Arizona coach Dennis Green, who was Minnesota's coach when Dungy was the defensive coordinator from 1992-95, said he was "devastated." "It seems like just yesterday when we were all together in Minnesota," Green said in a statement. "I remember James, who was about 6 or 7 at the time, just loved being around the facility and the team and most of all being around his dad."
Information from other news organizations was used in this report.