Super Bowl: Dungy bests protege Smith

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 4, 2007

Associated Press

MIAMI — Merely by stepping on the field Sunday, Tony Dungy made cultural history.

A few hours later, he won the Super Bowl, too.

Not bad for a day’s work.

Long saddled with a reputation as a coach who couldn’t win the big one, Dungy shook that label when his Indianapolis Colts beat the Chicago Bears 29-17.

The biggest win of Dungy’s career came against his close friend and protege, Bears coach Lovie Smith. They were the first black head coaches in the 41-year history of the Super Bowl.

When the game ended, Dungy was hoisted onto the shoulders of his team. He switched his blue Colts cap for a white one that read “NFL champions” and walked to midfield, where he and Smith exchanged words and a hug.

Dungy held on for an extra second.

Their relationship dates to 1996, when Dungy hired Smith to coach linebackers for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They were a page-one story throughout Super Bowl week, discussing daily the laid-back personalities and Christian faith they share, as well as their groundbreaking success.

“I’m proud to be the first African-American coach to win this,” Dungy said during the trophy ceremony. “But again, more than anything, Lovie Smith and I are not only African-American but also Christian coaches, showing you can do it the Lord’s way. We’re more proud of that.”

Dungy won because he had the better quarterback. Like his coach, Peyton Manning filled a void in his impressive resume by winning a ring. Steady rain made for a sloppy game that included eight turnovers, but Manning threw for 247 yards, including a 53-yard touchdown pass.

“We’re proud to have won this for our leader, Coach Dungy,” Manning said.

The Colts had been perennial title contenders since Dungy became coach in 2002, but fell short each year.

The breakthrough came two weeks ago, when Indianapolis overcame an 18-point deficit to beat New England. That earned Dungy a chance to face his friend Smith in the title game.

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