Celebrity couples look great in front of the cameras, wearing the latest designer clothes and traveling to exotic locations. Well, maybe that’s just Jay-Z and Beyonce. For Coach Tony Dungy and his wife of 31 years, Lauren Dungy, things are quite different. He’s played for and coached a total of seven NFL teams. An NFL coach’s wife, no matter how glamorous has to be prepared for moving around, uprooting her family for better opportunities and dealing with the long hours and public criticism any NFL coach has to face. And in 2005, the Dungys faced their greatest personal loss when their 18-year-old son, James committed suicide.
Now with the NBC Broadcasting team, Dungy does pregame commentary on Football Night in America. He says rumors of his return to Tampa Bay with head coach Lovie Smith are just that, rumors. But he and his wife have authored a brand new book An Uncommon Marriage: Learning About Love and Overcoming Life’s Obstacles Together, detailing how they coped with the highs and lows of a 31-year marriage. He talked to the Tom Joyner Morning Show about how he and Lauren have made it work.
TOM JOYNER: Thirty years you and your wife have been together. And you’ve been through some struggles. What’s the secret?
Definitely some ups and downs, some high points and some disappointments. In the book, we talk about three things – commitment to Christ and letting him guide things so that when you do kind of get off track you can always come back to that center point in following the Lord. Commitment to each other in saying that this is lasting and permanent no matter what disappointments come, we’re going to love each other and be permanently together. And communication, in trying to talk through things and some times that communication breaks down but if you’re committed and you stick with it, not only can you survive, you can flourish. And that’s kind of the message to people in the book and marriage is a great institution.
Is it exceptionally hard to maintain a relationship in professional sports?
It is. There are a lot of things that pull against it in professional sports. Everyone goes through trials and difficulties in their work. But in pro sports, there is a lot of travel, there’s long hours and also being in the public eye. Everything you do is scrutinized and everything mistake you make is out there for everyone to see. That does pull against it so I think you have to have that commitment even more and even stronger if you’re going to make it.
SYBIL WILKES: What about the greatest loss a parent can have? The suicide of your son had to have a tremendous impact on your marriage as well.
Absolutely. It was a very difficult time. You never expect anything like that to happen. You can deal with losing jobs or getting fired or having to move, or those kind of things. Lauren and I have lost parents. But you lose a child, it really does put a stress. You grieve, you have to grieve differently, you have to give each other space but you have to pull together. Again I think our faith in the Lord and our commitment to Christ and realizing that no matter what happens he’s going to be there directing us that’s the thing that can pull you through in that kind of situation.
What’s the plan for Valentine’s?
We’re going to see a play called Two Trains Running by August Wilson. My wife is from Pittsburgh and he writes a lot about Pittsburgh in his plays. So we’re going to see that and then go to dinner.
And then, you know what’s [happening] …(Laughs)