During his address at the Super Bowl 50 breakfast, 2-time Super Bowl Champion and TV analyst Tony Dungy opened up about how his faith has influenced his impressive career and exhorted his fellow athletes to make their spiritual lives the ultimate priority.
Speaking as part of a panel moderated by three-time Super Bowl winner Brent Jones, Dungy, who has won Super Bowls as both a player and a head coach, revealed that playing for Steelers head coach Chuck Noll in the 1970's transformed his outlook on life.
"He was a great role model for me...He taught us how to play well and all that, but he taught us about living and doing things the right way in the community," he recalled of his former coach. "Playing for [Noll] changed who I was as a person."
Dungy, who was the first black head coach to win the Super Bowl, with the Colts in the 2006 season, told the audience gathered at the San Francisco Hilton Hotel on Saturday that his experience with Coach Noll significantly impacted not only the way he played the game, but eventually, the way he coached his players.
"The Lord was preparing me to be a coach," he said. "Because of the guys I played for, I understood that it wasn't just teaching them to be better players, but helping them be better men."
Following remarks from New Orleans tight end Ben Watson, Dungy, who will become the 24th coach inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, then delivered closing remarks, and invited those in attendance to come to know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior.
He shared a particularly touching story about his 15-year-old son Jordan, one of his 10 children, who was born with a rare congenital defect that prevents him from feeling pain.
"You'd think that would be good, but it's not," he said, revealing that Jordan's condition has created many challenges for the family, as the little boy would sometimes place his hands in fire or in the oven.
"He's had a lot of operations, he's broken a lot of bones...he's had about 30 surgeries," Dungy explained.
However, the athlete emphasized that he and his wife have learned much from Jordan and seen God at work throughout the condition.
"He's been awesome; he doesn't complain," he said. "He's a wonderful kid...throughout this whole life experience with him, he's taught us why God allows us to feel pain...He's taught us a lot about life, he's taught us not to complain about things that are insignificant...he's always got a smile on his face, always helping people. We've learned from him...When people meet him, they understand where God is. He has a tremendous outlook on life and how the Lord has taken care of him...He doesn't look at the downsides of things."
Through his son's experience, Dungy has realized that God has created all kinds of people as a reflection of the many facets of His character.
"There are people in life like Jordan, where they go through life thinking everything is fine, and they don't feel pain. But they're really doing damage to themselves, and they're doing things that...drag them away from the Lord...God is still out there for them and hoping they'll come back," he explained.
In contrast, there are people in life who only feel pain who can't understand why negative things happen in their lives: "God is there for you also, and is waiting for us to say, 'I need to follow the Lord and have things respond in the right way.' I know that's the impact that Jordan has had on his peers -- no matter what happens in your life, no matter what physical trials you face... if you follow the Lord, you're going to be okay," Dungy said.
He quoted Mark 8:36, which states, "What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?"
"If football is your entire life, and you don't have a relationship with the Lord, you're going to be messed up, no matter how your life turns out," he stressed. "Even if you achieve fame and riches, if you forfeit your soul, it won't profit you.
"Where are you in terms of the Lord spiritually?" he asked before concluding in prayer. "That's the most important thing in life."
The Super Bowl Breakfast also featured the presentation of the Bart Starr Award to Thomas Davis of the Carolina Panthers, voted on by his peers in the NFL, for outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field and in the community. Past winners include Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Jason Witten, Drew Brees, Brent Jones, Trent Dilfer and others.