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Support, letters are comfort to Dungy

Many reached out to the Colts coach after his son James' suicide.

By RICK STROUD
Published March 29, 2006


LAKE BUENA VISTA - With each card or letter he opened, Tony Dungy realized he was not alone.

The death of his oldest son James to suicide three months ago is a tragic story he says is shared by too many families.

"Our family has gotten a lot of cards and a lot of letters from people who have lost children in a variety of ways," Dungy said. "But the biggest thing I've learned, it's not as rare as people think. A lot of people have been in that situation, a lot of people have gotten through it. You never would want to be in it or want anyone else to be in it, but people do make it through.

"You have to be true to your beliefs and be the person you talk about being no matter whether times are good or times are not good, so that's probably the biggest message. I've just been overwhelmed by the number of letters I've gotten from people and it's been mostly boys and ... it's not, "I was always worried about my son,' but "my son is in his third year at Princeton and he (makes) straight A's and it came out of nowhere. We didn't see it.'

"You just say, "Wow. What is happening, how are these guys getting put under so much pressure like this?' But it's been kind of a revelation to me. There's a lot of pressure on our young men from a lot of different directions."

Dungy, his wife Lauren and three of their children spent several days at the Hyatt Grand Cypress during the league meetings, just an hour or so north of where James is buried.

Dungy said he never seriously considered retirement following James' death and the Colts' loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Steelers.

In fact, Dungy doesn't foresee coaching another NFL team.

"I think that's definitely the case," Dungy said Tuesday morning during the AFC Coaches breakfast. "I don't foresee moving my family again and hopefully we win a couple of Super Bowls. But I'm pretty sure this is going to be my last stop.

"You never say never, but I'd be shocked."

"I told (Colts owner) Jim Irsay I was planning on coming back and didn't ever think that I wouldn't ... obviously, it was a situation I'd never faced before. It's unchartered waters. That never happened. There was never a point when I thought, "should I come back or shouldn't I?' If I got a feeling I couldn't do it, couldn't focus or couldn't concentrate or be effective but that never really happened."

While Dungy has been helped by having a job to concentrate on, he said James' death has been more difficult for his wife.

"It's definitely harder on her," Dungy said. "When you have things that can occupy your mind like work, I think that definitely helps so I probably don't think about it as much as she does. But I think it's best for all of us, best for our family right now that I'm coaching."

Dungy spent much of the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis last month with his son, Eric, and the two have nearly been inseparable again this week.

"Hopefully, it's no different. It's something I've always tried to do," Dungy said. "And I hope it's not different but I certainly do think about it a lot and make sure I don't slight any of the kids. But you hope you always were that way."