MINNEAPOLIS -- Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy is on his way into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, nine years after he became the first African-American coach to win a Super Bowl.
Dungy spent some of his formative years, both as a player and coach, in the Twin Cities, playing quarterback at the University of Minnesota and getting his first defensive coordinator job with the Minnesota Vikings on Dennis Green's staff in 1992.
In a press conference after the Hall of Fame's 2016 class was announced this past weekend, Dungy said his time with Green, in particular, played a major role in his eventual success as a head coach.
"I would say going to Minnesota was special for me. Denny Green called me in 1992 -- he had just got the job there," Dungy said. "Denny was my special-teams coach in San Francisco [in 1979], so he knew me. He wanted me to run the defense, and we had some greatness -- Chris Doleman, who is in the Hall of Fame, John Randle -- just some perfect guys for what I wanted to do.
"But more than anything, Denny said, ‘Hey, I’m going to show you how to be a head coach and what goes into it.’ He mentored me, taught me and showed me the ropes. So, yes, I got to get a reputation, but more than anything, he showed me things. And I have to say this: When I got the job in Tampa -- we’re in the same division, we’re competing against them, and I would call Denny and say, ‘Oh, it’s a Monday night schedule, how do we do that?’ And he would tell me because he wanted me to be successful, and that’s the type of guys you grew in the 49ers organization.”
Green's path to the Vikings was intertwined with the Bay Area, first with Bill Walsh at Stanford and then on Walsh's staff with the 49ers. Green's time with Dungy, of course, also started in San Francisco, and that relationship eventually helped Dungy get his first major coaching position with the Vikings. On Saturday, as Dungy sat in the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium talking about how his time in Minnesota with Green helped him get to Canton, it all came full circle for the Hall of Fame coach.