Dungy Headlines Michigan Sports Hall Of Fame Class
LARRY LAGE,AP Sports Writer
DETROIT (AP) — Tony Dungy had much of his success in football far from his hometown of Jackson, Mich., turning around the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and becoming the first black coach to win a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts.
Dungy, though, was always proud of his roots, and that’s why he was truly honored to be inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.
“I’ll always consider myself a Michigan guy,” he said. “I grew up here cheering for guys like Dave Bing, Al Kaline and Lem Barney, all of whom are in the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame, so when they called me to say I was going to be inducted, I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’ I never dreamed that I would get an honor like this.”
Dungy headlined an impressive class that was enshrined Monday night at Orchestra Hall. The 57th induction also included Mark Howe, Lomas Brown, Tyrone Wheatley, Steve Smith, Mateen Cleaves, Pamela McGee and Dick Kimball
Howe joined his father, Gordie, as the first father and son to be inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.
“To be in here with Dad is truly an honor,” said Mark Howe, a 1972 Olympian and Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman, who ended his playing career with the Detroit Red Wings.
Howe speech also included a touching tribute to his late mother, Colleen, who drove him all over the Motor City to get him to games as a kid.
“My mother is as much deserving of this honor as I am,” he said.
The Detroit Lions drafted Brown in 1985, and he spent his first 11 seasons with them, blocking for Barry Sanders and helping the franchise win its only playoff game since winning the 1957 NFL title.
Brown said Florida may be where he’s from, but he and his family have made Michigan his home.
Wheatley was a star running back for the Wolverines, but he earned a spot in the class in part because of his talents in track and on the basketball court at Dearborn Heights Robichaud High School. Wheatley thinks he could’ve been an Olympic-caliber track athlete had he not made a difficult choice when he went to Michigan.
“I’ve never told anyone this, but I did what I did because I would’ve had to give up football if I committed myself totally to track and field,” he said. “By playing football, I could still run track on the side.”
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo left East Lansing after practice Monday night and made a three-hour commute to help honor Smith, whom he recruited as an assistant, and Cleaves, his on-court leader during the 2000 national championship season.
“One (Smith) helped me get the job and one (Cleaves) helped me keep it,” Izzo said.
McGee was a star basketball player at USC and for the 1984 gold-winning Olympic team. She broke down, with tears rolling down her cheeks, while talking about the women who joined her from Odyssey House, a facility in her hometown of Flint that helps parents get substance-abuse counseling while living with their children.
“These women don’t get to be part of positive celebrations like this,” she said. “I’m honored that they could join me here.”
Kimball, a former Olympic and Michigan diving coach, and the rest of the inductees were excited to meet each other.
“Just to meet Tony Dungy is a thrill for me,” Kimball said before the induction.
Dungy said his path in professional sports was made possible by his upbringing in Michigan.
“I played from first grade to 12th grade with the same group of guys,” he said. “I learned how to be a winner, and how to lose with grace, and to be a good teammate. To me, that’s what sports is all about.”
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