Setting a good example
NBA great and TNT commentator Charles Barkley is notorious for once saying that he isn't a role model, and hopefully no one is still looking at him for personal conduct lessons, especially after he was arrested for drunken driving earlier this month.
Luckily, there are people in the sports world that realize that whether they want to be or not, they are role models who have easily-influenced young fans that emulate their on-the-field behavior, watch their post-game press conferences and follow their off-the-field activities.
There are plenty of coaches with winning records, but how many of them are also good role models?
Say what you will about Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs and his decision to hire an unproven Gene Chizik, but I respect the AD for saying that his top criteria for replacing Tommy Tuberville was finding a coach with character.
The Indianapolis Colts' Tony Dungy, who announced his retirement Monday after 14 years as a head coach, 15 years as an assistant and three years as a player in the NFL, was a great coach, probably a Hall of Fame one, but he's an even better role model.
During my first year here in Franklin County, I remember asking Red Bay football coach Dale Jeffreys, who is an avid reader, about his book preferences, and he highly recommended Dungy's best-selling autobiography, "Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices and Priorities of a Winning Life."
I didn't actually get around to reading it until last year, but it was a surprisingly good read because of the clear and frank way he described how his personal beliefs helped him deal with the ups and downs in his life.
On the field, Dungy had a 148-79 record in 14 seasons as the well-spoken and even-keeled head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis, and he led the Colts to a Super Bowl victory in 2007.
He also won a Super Bowl championship as a defensive back with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Off the field, Dungy is one of the most respected men in professional sports because of his adherence to his stated priorities of "faith, family and football," in that order, and his hands-on involvement in community activities, especially ones that offer guidance to young men without fathers.
At his retirement press conference, Dungy said he was looking forward to "phase two" of his life and spending more time with his family and volunteer work.
"I want to do something more with my family and something that would connect more with my goals," Dungy said.
"Where my heart is, is really with our young men right now. We have many guys that didn't grow up like me, didn't have their dad there and that's something I'm very, very interested in."
Dungy was not a flamboyant coach and he doesn't have a flashy lifestyle, but he managed to succeed in the over-the-top NFL while doing it his way.
It will be interesting to see what Dungy can accomplish during phase two, since in phase one he was a winner in every sense of the word.