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.
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 Livechurch.tv, 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.