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Archive for Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Mourners flock to Dungy service

Former Tampa skipper Piniella pays respects to coach’s son

December 27, 2005

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— Tony Dungy and his wife stood for more than three hours Monday night, greeting hundreds of mourners with handshakes and hugs. From NFL players past and present to well-wishers off the street, all came to offer the couple of condolences for the loss of their son.

The Indianapolis Colts coach and his wife, Lauren, will bury 18-year-old James Dungy today.

Among those who waited hours to file through the tiny funeral home chapel were former Tampa Bay Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella and representatives from several NFL teams. Many had never met James Dungy, but still felt compelled to show support for a soft-spoken man revered in this city as much more than a football coach.

The Dungys took the time to thank each person for coming by to pay respect to James, who was found dead in his suburban apartment last week of an apparent suicide. The exact cause of his death was pending the result of a toxicology report.

"Hopefully he felt the love that I have for him and Lauren," Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks said. "He's doing the best he can under the circumstances. A lot of people have come to pay their respects because he's meant more to this community than just a football coach."

Among the others filing past the open casket were Denver Broncos safety John Lynch, former Minnesota Vikings standout Cris Carter, former Bucs and Colts kicker Martin Gramatica, current Bucs Mike Alstott, Dave Moore and Jeff Gooch and former Vikings head coach and Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Les Steckel.

The crowd began forming about an hour before the visitation, and about 300 people were lined up by the time coach Dungy and his family arrived at the funeral home in a limousine. Many of the VIP's were escorted to the front of the line, but others waited with the rest of the public.

The Colts still don't know when Dungy will return as coach, however he will be joined by his players today when the team flies to Florida to attend the funeral at Idlewild Baptist Church.

"I think it will be great for coach Dungy, and I think it will be great for our team, our coaching staff and those people in the building who work with him day to day," Jim Caldwell, who is running the Colts in Dungy's absence, said in Indianapolis.

Caldwell has been in almost daily contact with Dungy and trying to keep the Colts in their routine. That included a scheduled three-day break even after a second straight loss Saturday, 28-13 at Seattle.

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