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Former Bucs Coach Tony Dungy offers lesson in local Black history at Boca Ciega High

Feb. 23, 2024

If there is one thing Pro Football Hall of Famer Tony Dungy hopes Boca Ciega High School students took away from his Black history presentation Thursday, it’s gratitude.

“Hopefully this inspires some of them to look back and see some of the sacrifices people have made to give them opportunity,” Dungy said before speaking to a select group of ninth graders and student-athletes in the school’s auditorium. “I grew up when there were no African American football players in the Southeastern Conference. So yes, a lot has changed.”

Tony DungyDungy, who said he began preparing for the presentation by researching Black players who played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, ended up going down a different path when he realized how recent desegregation in the Tampa Bay area actually was.

“Had I lived in Tampa in high school, I wouldn’t have been able to go to any school I wanted,” Dungy, the former head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the first African American head football coach to win a Super Bowl Championship and the first Black head coach to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, told students. “I would have had a choice of two. And only one if I lived in St. Petersburg.”

Robby Medici, Tony Dungy and Jordan NaylorThis realization left senior basketball player Jordan Naylor in shock.

“To hear the story about how Blake (High School) was shut down is crazy to me,” Naylor said. “I would not know where I am without some of my teammates. And just because they’re white, there shouldn’t be any difference in whether we can play together or not.”

Dungy recalled taking his then 10-year-old son to a Clemson versus Alabama National Championship football game in 2016 and realizing that the entire Alabama defense was made up of African American players. He turned that night into a teaching moment.

“My son has a Patrick Mahomes jersey and that’s great, that’s awesome,” Dungy said. “But I’ve had to tell my son that we had some Patrick Mahomes who your dad played with who never got a chance to be Patrick Mahomes.”

It was due to the perseverance of prior athletes that paved the way for players today, Dungy said.

“I really hope our students learn from these stories of resilience and perseverance,” said Principal Jennifer Gil. “It was really exciting to have someone of his caliber on our campus offering that reassurance.”

Prior to Dungy, Morgan Milavickas, who works in the school’s College and Career Center, gave her first-hand account of meeting one of the Freedom Riders and how that changed her perspective on the things she once took for granted.

For student-athlete Robby Medici, imagining back to a time of segregation seems impossible.

I can’t imagine what it would be like without some of my brothers out there (on the field),” Medici said. “No matter the color of their skin, what race they are, they’re all my brothers in the sport.”