Tony Dungy was head coach of the Buccaneers from 1996-2001 and his son James often joined him at team headquarters
Buccaneers Owner/President Malcolm Glazer released the following statement upon learning of the death of James Dungy, son of Indianapolis Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy:
"On behalf of the entire Buccaneer organization, I would like to extend our deepest sympathies to Tony and his family. Our thoughts and prayers will be with the Dungys as they try to move forward from this most difficult time. We will be asking for a moment of silence from our fans prior to the Falcons game to honor the memory of James."
Tony Dungy was head coach of the Buccaneers from 1996-2001 and James' tragic death occurred in a Tampa suburb on Wednesday. Tony and his wife Lauren have four other children, daughters Tiara and Jade and sons Eric and Jordan.
Though much has changed at One Buccaneer Place since Dungy left after the 2001 season, there are still coaches, players and staff members at every level who worked with the former head coach during his six-year tenure. The Buccaneers broke a string of 14 straight losing seasons under Dungy in 1997 and qualified for the playoffs four times in a five-year span.
Some of the players and coaches who aided in that success remain, including Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin and players Mike Alstott, Ronde Barber, Derrick Brooks and Shelton Quarles. All were feeling the pain of Dungy's loss on Thursday.
"You can't put it into words," said Brooks. "There are no words to describe it. I'm a father of three and I couldn't fathom it. I couldn't even imagine getting a phone call or being told. I couldn't even understand what I would possibly think."
Dungy's former players and colleagues also remembered how important family was to their former coach, who often brought his children to the office.
"He did a great job of that, and when he couldn't be home, that's why [the Buccaneers' locker room] always had his kids around," said Quarles. "That's why we grew up with his kids also. He's a great guy, and he does a great job figuring out different ways to spend time with his family when he can't be at home. He was an inspiration to me and he helped me grow into the man that I am today, with the values he instilled, not necessarily verbally, but from just seeing him in the workplace. All those things helped me become the man I am today."
Consequently, many Buccaneer players got to know James and Dungy's other children and were shocked and deeply saddened by Thursday's news.
"He grew up around here," said Alstott, who became a Buccaneer the same year Dungy did, in 1996. "I remember he was at my waist, probably a little bit taller than that. I saw him grow like a weed. He was here all the time, day in and day out, hanging out in the locker room, hanging out with the players out on the football field, in the equipment room. When James wasn't here, I [would say,] 'Where's James?' He was a part of this football team."
Quarles also remembered James fondly.
"I just remember him being a fun-loving guy," he said. "I remember him at a Christmas party, when I first got here, probably in 1997 or 1998. I remember him dancing on the dance floor with some cleats on with no spikes in them. It was one of the funnier times with him dancing out there with some cheerleaders. It was pretty funny."
Added Brooks: "Obviously, he was a younger kid then, just full of energy and you always knew he was going to grow up to be a productive young man. It's Christ's will that things happen, for whatever reason. Like I said, I can only just right now extend my prayers and concern with Coach Dungy and his family."
All of the Buccaneers who commented on James' passing and the grief it has brought the Dungy family echoed Brooks' belief that Dungy's Christian faith will keep him strong during these difficult times.
"Tony's got tremendous faith," said Kiffin. "That's what will carry Tony through. He's unbelievable. Knowing Tony, I'll let him tell you about that. But I know what Tony's thinking and I know how he'll handle it. And it will be his faith that will really stand strong. But that doesn't mean it's easy."
Said Quarles: "That's the only thing that he has to hold on to in [this] particular time, other than family. I'm sure that will see him through in this terrible time."
The tragedy in Dungy's family occurred near the end of a work week for the Colts and the Buccaneers, but it quickly put the game of football into perspective.
"It just makes you want to hug your kids a little tighter at night, and make sure you spend every possible minute that you can with them, when you have an opportunity," said Quarles. "You never know when you are going to be taken away from this world, and it's a sad situation. But hopefully, knowing Tony, and knowing the kind of man he is, he'll be able to recover and move on from this situation."