Tony Dungy’s 18-Year-Old Son, James, Found Dead

James Dungy, son of Colts head coach Tony Dungy, has died of unknown causes:

James Dungy, a son of Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, has died, hospital spokesman says. The 18-year-old son of Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, was found dead in his apartment in Lutz, Florida, a suburb of Tampa, Thursday morning.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office responded to the Campus Lodge Apartments Thursday morning at approximately 1:32 a.m. EST after James Dungy’s girlfriend, Antoinette Anderson, returned to the apartment and discovered Dungy. The first deputy on scene performed CPR on Dungy until Hillsborough County Fire Rescue arrived and transported him to University Community Hospital where he was pronounced dead. The cause of death is pending autopsy by the Hillsborough County Medical Examiners Office.

Coach Dungy has left the team temporarily to go to Tampa.

How heartbreaking. My best wishes to the Dungy family.

Update: Chris Mortensen puts this tragedy into perspective:

When I woke up this morning, I had a lot on my plate. Now, I have no taste for any of it. Not the NFL games. Not the Pro Bowl teams. Not rumors about coaches and executives on the hot seat. Not Christmas.

All I have is a broken heart for Tony and Lauren Dungy, parents of five children. Their eldest son, James, was found dead at 18 years old in his apartment near Tampa, Fla., this morning.

Who cares now that Dungy’s Indianapolis Colts are 13-1 and not 14-0?

Tragedies and death happen all too frequently in our lives. There’s just something about this tragedy that feels so raw and so hurtful that words cannot describe the emotions and grief. And it wasn’t even my child.

Anybody who knows Tony Dungy understands these emotions. When I broke the news by telephone to Tom Jackson, my ESPN colleague, we could not disguise our broken voices and tears. I imagine there have been many of us around this league at every level feeling the same lows.

Of all of the wonderful people in the NFL, no man is more wonderful than Dungy. He’s the role model in this league, but he’s really a model who transcends the game. His football team means a lot to him. His faith and his family mean more, which is why this loss cannot be compared to any other Dungy has experienced.

Len Pasquarelli adds,

I have watched my parents bury two of my four siblings, the most recent just six weeks ago, when we laid to rest my brother. He would have celebrated a birthday on Thursday. I have witnessed the raw emotion that accompanies such a tragic event.

So when the ESPN.com editors dispatched an e-mail Thursday morning, seeking a reactionary column to the death of James Dungy, the 18-year-old son of Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy and his wife, Lauren, I approached the laptop keyboard with this firsthand reality: Not even the greatest literary giants of this or any other time are capable of crafting words sufficient to assuage the profound grief that is inherent to the passing of any parent’s child.

Admittedly more hack than wordsmith am I, so there isn’t a single syllable of this column that can adequately console the Dungy family on their loss, or even remotely make sense of the situation. Editors have a pet term, “weighing in,” on such stories. But words, even the sort of eloquent prose of which I’m rarely capable, carry little gravitas at these times.

To say nothing, though, in such cases is to essentially be as hollow as the hollow words themselves, and so some sincere effort is surely in order.

There is a devastating incongruity that transpires when the circle of life suddenly comes unraveled, and parents are called upon to bid an early farewell to a child. The celebrity imposed upon Tony Dungy and his family because of his station in life will neither lessen nor exacerbate what certainly must be the most painful experience imaginable.

Less than a week ago, Dungy presided over a group of men poised on the cusp of football immortality. On Thursday, he was forced to identify a young man he fathered and, in so doing, to confront his own mortality. It is, to be sure, an exercise in which a parent must plumb the depths of emotion and dip deep into the reservoir of faith.

There were times 14 years ago, when my youngest brother died in an accident, when I saw my parents, who like Tony and Lauren Dungy are people of great faith and values, question everything. There were times, indeed, when I wondered whether they could survive such a tragedy. And then, last month, the emotions were revisited, and I can tell you this: For the first few days, a parent doesn’t go from hour to hour, but rather lives from one breath to the next, because the pain is so psychologically debilitating.

Benumbing does not begin to describe the experience. Truth be told, a parent who loses a child never has the hurt scarred, never grows a callous over the wound. Instead, they must lean on each other and, even more so, on faith. And must, although seemingly impossible in the moment, find some source of enduring strength.

Update: The news gets worse: It was apparently a suicide.

James Dungy, the 18-year-old son of Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, was found dead of an apparent suicide in his Tampa area apartment early Thursday morning. “Based on evidence at the scene, indications are that this death appears to be a suicide,” Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Debbie Carter said in a statement. “There is no other information to contradict that at this time.” An autopsy has not been completed, the statement said.

Losing a teenage son is horrible enough. Adding the inevitable second guessing that follows a suicide only magnifies the anguish.

FILED UNDER: General, Sports,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Matt says:

    James Dungy was a good friend to alot of people and very well known. I had just seen James tuesday and he seemed fine. He was playing around and laughing with some friends. My heart goes out to Tony and his family for this loss. My heart will also reach out to his girlfriend who loved him very much. They will be in my prayers through this time of mourning. I know James has touched many lives including mine. But we are not alone GOD is bigger than anything in this very small world. ALWAYS IN MY PRAYERS JAMES, FAMILY, AND FRIENDS. May GOD BLESS US ALL.

  2. Kathy Schreiber says:

    Dear Coach Dungy,
    My sympathies are with you and your family @ this tragic time in your life. If there is anything that I can do please don’t hesitate to ask. My prayers are with you @ this time also. I couldn’t believe the news when! I heard. My love is with you and your family. I know what! It is like to lose a loved one, and I understand what you must be going through. Kathy

  3. debi says:

    MAY THE HANDS OF GOD WRAP AROUND YOU AND YOUR FAMILY DURING THIS TERRIBLE TIME. THE WORLD IS GRIEVING WITH YOU.

  4. eddie gauntt and family says:

    DEAR COACH DUNGY SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS AND WE WILL KEEP YOUN AND FAMILY IN PRAYS YOU IS A STRONG MAN AND YOU HAVE FAITH IN WHAT YOU BELIEVE WHAT COME TO PASS THERE IS REASON IN THINGS THAT GOD DO THINGS AND AND AREASON WHY THE DEVIL HAVE A PLAY IN SOMETHINGS BUT KEEP YOUR FAITH AND KEEP YOUR HEAD UP GOD GOT YOUR BACK AND HE GOT IN CONTROL IN ALL THINGS

  5. shalandra says:

    I am so sorry for the loss of this incredible human being. I didn’t know him personally, but from all the wonderful things people are saying he’s one in an million. Coach Dungy you and your family I am so sorry my heart and prayers go out to you. I know it hurts. God only knows what happened.

    God bless you and your family
    With much love
    Shalandra

  6. shalandra says:

    I am so sorry for the loss of this incredible human being. I didn’t know him personally, but from all the wonderful things people are saying he’s one in an million. Coach Dungy to you and your family I am so sorry my heart and prayers go out to you. I know it hurts. God only knows what happened. Keep on trusting in him and hold on to his unchanging hands and it will be alright.

    God bless you and your family
    With much love
    Shalandra