August 7, 2010

Day Three Recap

Filed under: Book Tour — Nathan @ 12:32 am

Where are we? If it’s Friday, I must be in Chicago. Or Indiana.

As you recall, when we last left off from this mind-numbing account of what I’ve been having for lunch this week (recap: Charley’s Steakery in ATL airport, giant shrimp at Redeye Grill, and Baked Ziti at ESPN), we had just arrived in Chicago on Wednesday night.

Thursday was terrific, and not just because our host for the day was a former Duke football who has become wildly successful in life (no punch line, just the facts. Live with it.). No, even without Lance Murdoch, Thursday would have been great.

All Pro Dad

Tony speaking at the All Pro Dad event at Wheaton Acadamy

Tony was on the phone starting at 7:00 am on a variety of radio spots as we drove to the Wheaton Academy, where the school hosted an All Pro Dad event. Four hundred people were in attendance, both parents and students, and heard Tony speak on the importance of living an Uncommon life – to not be afraid to not follow the crowd. It was a great event, much to the relief of Todd Starowitz, the Tyndale PR head who coaches softball at Wheaton Academy when he’s not arranging media for our books. Tony signed a good number of books and then we headed to Willow Creek Community Church, home of the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit.

And by the way, until you hear otherwise, our Amazon sales rank ranges from the mid-20s to mid-40s. It’s hard to keep track anymore, plus my phone battery keeps dying so I’ve had to decide between checking the sales rank and tweeting pictures of myself on the tour. Me won out. It wasn’t even close.

Willow Creek was big. About 7,500 in attendance big. We were accompanied, of course, by the gracious and omnipresent Lance, who made sure that we found our way around the gigantic facility. Tony was interviewed by Craig Groeschel, the senior pastor at, a church that has a virtual presence throughout Oklahoma and a variety of locations around the nation.

The interview was fantastic, as Craig led Tony through many of the themes of “The Mentor Leader,” in depth. One of my favorite stories was of Tony speaking of Mr. Rockquemore, his junior high assistant principal. In short, Mr. Rockquemore got to know the students by spending time with them at lunch and taking them to high school basketball games, such that by the time Tony was entering his senior year and decided to quit the football team, Mr. Rockquemore had a relationship with Tony that allowed him to talk with him – even though Tony hadn’t been at the same school as Mr. Rockquemore in years. Mr. Rockquemore asked Tony a question that he’s never forgotten: “Even if you are right on principle, why would you allow someone else to dictate whether you are going to do something that you enjoy?”

Tony, of course, went back to the team, and enjoyed a career in professional football that extended over three decades. During that career, he hired a young coach named Mike Tomlin, but only coached with Mike for a year. Earlier this year, Tony’s son, Eric, was being recruited by a coach at the University of Oregon, Scott Frost, when Tony started recognizing phrases that sounded like Mike Tomlin. When asked, Scott said that he’d only played for Mike in the last year of his NFL career, but said that he’d learned so much and wished that it had been more.

Tony’s point? Although Mr. Rockquemore has died, his legacy lives on as he impacted Tony, who impacted Mike, who impacted Scott, who is now having an influence on Tony’s son.

Beyond the substance, the very fact of the interview itself was emotional for me. Four years ago, I was on staff at Van Dyke Church in Lutz, FL (think North Tampa area) where my friend Rob Rose had hired me to ostensibly oversee parts of ministry. In reality, he was saving us from bankruptcy while I followed a vision of writing a book about the leadership style of Tony Dungy. It wasn’t like it didn’t pay immediate dividends for Rob, as I began repaying him – who stunningly still has a job – by running the men’s and small group ministries into the ground, as I had no sense for ministry. In addition to helping those ministry areas to implode, one of Van Dyke’s annual events that I assisted with was the church’s serving as a satellite host for the Willow Creek Leadership Summit, as hundreds watched the summit via broadcast.

This all came back to me as I sat there, on the fourth row AT the Willow Creek Summit, watching Tony speak on leading while mentoring, and my phone vibrated. A text. From Rob. “He is doing grt.” And then later, “Congrats again proud of you.” Fun to think back on what a journey it’s been – long in some ways and overnight in others.

After Tony’s appearance, we headed out to the Borders in Schaumburg, IL for a signing. We were unsure what the crowd would be like – after all, this was Bears country. Turns out that the crowd was big and eager to see him – there are a lot more Indianapolis Colts fans in the area than we suspected. Interestingly, each and every one of them, we were told, was the only one to wear their Colts jersey on the day that the Colts beat the Bears in Super Bowl XLI.

And yes, the police were called. Thankfully, it wasn’t because of Tony. Rather, an elderly woman, who apparently the Borders folks recognized from other signings, showed up with a bag full of Colts memorabilia (think: second-hand market once signed). Because we were signing books only so as to keep the line moving quickly (and because I don’t get royalty checks from Colts helmet sales), she was informed that she wouldn’t be able to get the others signed. She disappeared into the line and returned, telling them that Tony told her that it was okay – that she just needed to wait. She didn’t realize that they recognized her and her gambit from earlier signings, so they requested that she leave, at which point she and her son started making a scene, shrieking that she was elderly feeble, and that they were going to call the police.

“Gladly,” said the manager, called the police, and they disappeared.

We headed back to Willow Creek, where Tony spoke to The Chicagoland Youth Football League (TCYFL), which is one of the largest independent youth football leagues in the country. Hosting over 10,000 kids, the league emphasizes character development alongside competing. Tony spoke to around 2,000 coaches and reminded them, “Can I win and lose, both, with class and dignity?”

A spectacular day, all in all. And one that was over, for the first time all tour, by 9:30.

August 5, 2010

Day Two Recap

Filed under: Book Tour — Nathan @ 12:56 am

And now Day 2 is in the books.

Tony, Nathan and Scott Van Pelt at ESPN

Tony, Nathan and Scott Van Pelt at ESPN

This entry will be much shorter, as our travel was cut to a minimum. We arrived, and we left. Our destination today? Bristol, Connecticut, the home of The Campus, as the folks who work at ESPN call it.

We departed Manhattan at 5:45 this morning and arrived in Bristol around 8, just before Jason Romano put Tony through the Full Car Wash (the concept being that after you’ve gone through it, you feel like you’ve…gone through a car wash, without the car).  It was great.

SportsCenter Live at 9:15, Mike and Mike at 9:40, interview, followed by ESPN Rise (I didn’t even realize that they had a channel for High Schoolers).  Tony really enjoyed getting to talk on issues for high schoolers.

First Take, then The Herd.  At this point I slipped off and wandered down the hall with the help of Michael Smith, one of their NFL correspondents and host of a variety of shows, who I met a couple of years ago when we were on the “Uncommon” tour.  My covert destination? To meet Nate Ravitz and Matthew Berry, the two guys who host ESPN’s fantasy baseball podcast.  As I told them, we’re in first in my longtime fantasy league despite my listening to them every day.  It was an enjoyable few minutes to put actual people behind the voices.

Then we were off to lunch, where the Dungy group ate with the Keenum group, whom we were running into all day.  Case Keenum, the terrific quarterback at the University of Houston who seems to be an even better person.  For as many copies of “The Mentor Leader” as we handed out, it seemed a shame to not give Case one, but even though I don’t qualify as a Houston Cougar booster, I didn’t want to give the NCAA a chance to act…

Jason Romano, who is a strong Christian in his own right, took us right back out into the second half of the Car Wash, including SportsCenter Live again, an chat (the same guy asked both Coach Dungy and Case if they preferred gas or charcoal grills…?  Weird.), ESPN Digital Media (Tony’s “5 Things that a Rookie Should Take to Training Camp*”), ESPNews, ESPN Deportes (in English, thankfully).

At this point, my day took a turn for the unfortunate, as my shoe came apart across the top.  Thankfully, we were surrounded by studios, and they came to my rescue with gaff tape, which held pretty well.  I’m going a little more casual tomorrow with my backup pair, not by design.

SportsNation was next, which was very fun.  Only about 8 of us in the audience, making noise – most of which was provided by a couple of “professional hecklers” that ESPN brings in for the show.  They’re not actually pros, but very vocal staffers who just keep yelling during the show.

Then came my two favorite moments:  The Scott Van Pelt show, who was very clear each time he discussed the book, “The Mentor Leader, by Tony Dungy, WRITTEN WITH NATHAN WHITAKER.”  I thanked him afterward and he said, “Tony Dungy is just the best guy.  I can’t wait to read the new one, because I just loved ‘Uncommon.’”  Very cool.

And then, NFL Live, hosted by the aforementioned Michael Smith. Michael arrived early to meet with me to discuss the book, but instead ended up in a long production meeting going over a different concept for their piece with Tony.  They ended up deciding to bring in Merrill Hoge, who is mentoring Ben Rothlisberger right now, and have him discuss that process with Tony and Michael.  Unfortunately I missed the piece, as I was off in the wings, discussing fantasy football strategy with Tim Hasselbeck.  I’ll have to catch the replay on the web.

Finally, Tony taped a piece with Jay Harris for tomorrow night’s evening SportsCenter.  Jay, like everyone else I met, was terrifically gracious.

Our trip to Hartford’s airport was a little more exciting that it needed to be, as we had a little mix-up on the transportation from the studio to the airport.  I was able to draw on my NFL experience as the Assistant to the Traveling Secretary and help out – hopefully I’ve now earned some of my keep.

And in the airport, we ran into Tony’s old teammate from the University of Minnesota, Hall of Famer Dave Winfield. How fun.  Tony reminded me that Winfield was drafted in three professional sports (baseball, basketball and football) despite only playing two in college (baseball and basketball).  What I didn’t realize was that Tony and other teammates were trying to convince Dave to pursue professional basketball, not baseball, because he’d have a longer career.  Dave chose baseball, of course, and played for 22 years and was a 12-time All-Star.

And if you were doubting the power of an ESPN Full Car Wash, we awoke to an Amazon sales ranking of 76, and I’m headed to bed tonight with it at 27 (it hit 22 as we were leaving Bristol).

We’re in Chicago tonight, where we get to sleep in.  We don’t have to leave our hotel in the morning until…6:45.  As for me, I only had 3 caffeinated drinks today, down from 8 yesterday. Either I was more careful, or simply more distracted by ESPN (oh, and even Tony was stopping to take pictures of areas of ESPN’s “Campus.”  We all did – it was like an amusement park for grown-ups).

*Any guesses as to #1? An Alarm Clock.  He said that when he arrived in Pittsburgh as a player, Coach Noll gave them the schedule and said that there wouldn’t be any wake-up calls.  They were adults and could decide how much time they needed to be on time.

August 4, 2010

Day One Recap

Filed under: Book Tour — admin @ 12:35 pm

The Mentor LeaderThe end of day 1 is in sight. We’re driving back from Ridgewood, NJ, into the City. Tony’s still got several interviews to come: a taping with Sean Hannity to air Friday, a live television bit with Greta van Susteren, and then radio with Alan Colmes (and frankly, I don’t know if his is live – I just know that it’s late).

It all started yesterday, when I flew from Gainesville to New York. Actually, if I’d flown to New York, it would have been fine. Instead, I was headed into Newark, and unlike New York cabs, turns out the New Jersey fleet isn’t totally into credit cards. Next thing I know, I’m in a small deli in Manhattan, running in to get cash from an ATM while my suitcase sits in a cab outside at the curb. Hopefully.

Other that that, it was a quiet pre-release day. I met with HarperCollins about an upcoming project and then wandered around the City, having dinner alone at Ted’s Montana Café. Then to bed in my room – the 45th floor of the Marriott Marquis, with an eye-level view of the New Year’s Eve ball to the south, and if I lean against the wall at the window, I can see the Statue of Liberty in the distance, down Broadway. (“Mentor Leader” sales rank on 3,121)

Very cool.

At 8:30 we were headed off in a black Escalade with our driver, Anthony, our same driver from the “Uncommon” tour. Hopefully the logistics of this tour go as well as that one. There are four of us accompanying Tony on this tour – his posse – DJ Snell, our literary agent, Todd Starowitz, Tyndale’s public relations person, and Jessica Quinn, the publicist. And me. As posses go, poor Tony is saddled with the lamest ever. (Amazon sales rank: 2,183)

A few minutes later were were at “Morning Joe,” where Tony was interviewed by Willie Geist, Luke Russert, and Alex, a business writer for the New York Times. We’re particularly pleased with this lineup, as it’s slightly different from our prior ones and we’re hoping that “Mentor Leader” gets positioned in the business market. A really good interview.

A few minutes later, we were in another section of Rockefeller Center – quite an underground labyrinth, The Rock, and were prepping for The Today Show. We were a little disappointed, because his segment had been bumped the night before to the 9:40 slot, which has a lower viewing population. As it was, we almost didn’t make it at all. We were hanging out in the green room – I was on my third cup of coffee and Tony his second water, since he doesn’t drink coffee – when a producer grabbed our group. And then we were running back through the labirynth to the set for Today.

Seconds to spare, and then Tony was on with Al Roker, who did a nice job. (Our sales rank started to rise, even in this time slot: 1077)

We then headed over to Fox, where Tony taped a show with Mike Huckabee – to air Monday, we’re told. Also on the set: a Real Housewives of New York. That was a first.

Tony then did a number of radio interviews, including one with Steve Inskeep of NPR, set to air later this week. (Our rank kept climbing, despite the fact that a number of these appearances were being taped: 131)

Lunch was at the Redeye Grill, where we ate some of the largest shrimp that I’ve ever seen. I almost ordered the Shrimp Burger until the waiter told me that it was “adequate.”

Refreshed to watch more interviews, I tagged along for the rest of the day: Fox Business Channel, NFL Network at the NFL Office on Park Avenue, and that book signing in Ridgewood, NJ.

Anyway, the signing went well. Steady, for about an hour and a half. A number of Colts fans, a couple of Bucs fans, and a lot of Tony fans.

We headed back where the three remaining interviews all took unique turns from everything that Tony had done today. Sean Hannity, which will air Friday night, went through the 7 Es of Mentor Leadership – the first one today. My dad played a big role in helping me come up with the 7 Es – having that be on Hannity will be a big thrill for him, I’m sure.

Alan Colmes is so great to Tony. Asked a bunch of questions about faith (and also talked about the 7 Es) but brought groans from his staff when he asked Tony about Brett Fay-ver. Apparently he’s not a big sports fan and they try to coach him up before each of Tony’s appearances…oh, well. We still thought it was a terrific interview.

Finally, Greta van Susteren, who always does great interviews with Tony, she asked him about Allen Truman. Allen grew up in Jackson, Michigan, and for some reason when he was about 17 took a 12 year-old boy under his wing. He took him to Tigers games and Michigan and Michigan State games, and took him to play basketball. For whatever reason, Allen decided to mentor Tony Dungy.

Allen doesn’t know why he did it, and to this day, he doesn’t think he did anything special. But that’s one of the points of The Mentor Leader: it doesn’t take anything heroic, just a desire to intentionally build into someone else’s life…for their good.

Before bed I spoke with Michael Smith of ESPN about his interview of Tony tomorrow on NFL Live. He was driving from Boston to Bristol, CT, to do Tony’s interview – he and I are planning to talk in the morning about the book and the interview.

It’s midnight, and we’re supposed to roll out, checked out, at 5:45am. Good night.

Oh, and we’re at #100.

August 3, 2010

Posts from the Book Tour

Filed under: Book Tour — Nathan @ 5:11 pm

I’ve hit the road with Tony Dungy promoting our new book, The Mentor Leader. Grab the book here, and be sure to stay tuned through the blog and Twitter. A lot of exciting things are happening! – Nathan

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