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Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy at practice Friday in Davie, Fla. Dungy was the defensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers when Courtland native and former UNA star Bruce Jones made the NFL team's roster in 1987.
AP photo by Michael Conroy
Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy at practice Friday in Davie, Fla. Dungy was the defensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers when Courtland native and former UNA star Bruce Jones made the NFL team's roster in 1987.

Ex-NFL player says Dungy set Christian example for team

By Michael Wetzel
mwetzel@decaturdaily.com · 340-2462

It was nearly 20 years ago, but to Decatur’s Bruce Jones, it seems like yesterday.

In 1987, the second-year NFL player out of North Alabama received some great news. The messenger was Tony Dungy, now head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.

At the time, Dungy served as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive coordinator, and Jones was trying to latch onto a roster spot.

“I’m pretty sure it was one of the biggest days of my life when Coach Dungy came to me and told me I had made the team,” Jones said.

“Until somebody on the staff actually comes up to you and tells you that you’ve made the team, you’re never sure. I will always remember that conversation with him. ... the look on his face as he was telling me. Yes, it seems like yesterday. It really does.”

Jones, executive director of Decatur Youth Services, said while his time with Dungy was short, it was not fruitless.

“He is a Christian man, and being around him you know it,” Jones said. “He cared about his players and about winning. Friday nights before the Sunday games, we would meet at a player’s or coach’s house, and he would encourage us to bring our playbooks, and we would go over the defensive schemes.”

Jones said he remembers filling out paper forms for Dungy at those Friday night gatherings.

“He wanted to know what you were doing all the time, on and off the field.”

Thirty years old at the time, Dungy was the youngest defensive coordinator in the league. Jones said he didn’t hear or see any of the older players tease the coach about his youthfulness.

“I didn’t really see his age as a big deal,” Jones said. “I was so excited about being the league, and maybe didn’t realize how young he was as a coach. But I do know he had the respect of all his players.

“I was always impressed on how he carried himself. I saw somebody who was very consistent with his actions. You knew who he was. Hopefully, being around solid men like him who have good character and integrity has helped me in my life and career.”

Jones recalls how crazy the league was in 1987 with the players’ strike and the promise of job security.

A couple of games into the season, Jones got playing time on special teams. Then came the strike.

“The first-year players got a commitment from the union that we would all have our jobs when the strike was over,” Jones said.

Two games after the strike ended, Jones got the news he was being released.

“I remember it, too,” he said. “A scout told me, not Dungy. But he might have been the one who made the decision to cut me. I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter now.”

Jones said a few months later was the last time he personally talked with Dungy.

“I talked with him about helping me get on with another team,” said Jones, who eventually signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but didn’t make the regular-season roster. “I am hoping he spoke positively of me with the Bucs to give me that chance.”

Is Jones pulling for Dungy and the Colts in Sunday’s Super Bowl?

“It was the Chicago Bears who drafted me out of UNA, and they got rid of me pretty quick,” he said. “I certainly don’t have any loyalty for them.”

Jones likes the Colts 28-23.

“If (quarterback Rex) Grossman brings his A game, it might be a long day for Indy,” Jones said. “But Dungy has Indy playing better defense these days.”

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