January 31, 2007
Most football fans know by now that Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy are the first African-American head coaches to lead a team to a Super Bowl.
"I'm excited to cross that road, to be on of the first to participate in this game" said Smith.
70-percent of NFL players are black, but few go on to head coaching jobs. Some say this moment is long overdue.
"There were many, many guys before us who, given the opportunity, could have done the same thing. That's why I'm happy to be here and proud to be on this platform" said Dungy.
In many ways, the two coaches lives run parallel. Both were raised in small-towns, are deeply religious and have relied upon that faith to get them through tough times.
Just a little over a year ago, Dungy's 18-year-old son committed
suicide. His death stunned the family and the Colts organization. In
the aftermath, football became Dungy's outlet.
Lovie Smith had his knocks, too. He grew up with an alcoholic father and a mother who went blind. The family too poor to pay for healthcare.
The two men's lives would cross when Dungy gave Smith his first job.
They have very similar coaching styles, no yelling, no swearing. Their
friendship runs deep.
"I really admire the way he coaches and the way his team plays" said Dungy.
"He's one of the all-time great coaches" said Smith.
For now, that friendship is on hold until the game ends on Sunday. That's when, for the first time ever, a black head coach will raise the championship trophy. No doubt the other will be close by to give his friend a pat on the back.
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