The University of Minnesota football team probably gained some extra motivation - and definitely some extra wisdom - before they took to the field for Tuesday's spring practice session. The Gophers were visited by one of the most well-known and well-respected of M Men.
Super Bowl winning player and coach, best-selling author and former Gopher quarterback Tony Dungy spoke to the team and answered some questions from the current Gophers for more than 30 minutes at the Gibson-Nagurski Complex Tuesday afternoon. Dungy was joined by former Gopher All-America center Ben Hamilton, who shared some thoughts with the team as well.
"That was huge for Coach Dungy to come back to his alma mater and talk to the team about the tradition here when he was here, life in the NFL and being a positive influence in the community," quarterback MarQueis Gray said. "I think some of the younger guys - and the older guys - are going to take that to heart and be positive influences."
As a young man growing up in Indianapolis Gray said Dungy was someone he always looked up to. The current Gopher signal-caller certainly came away impressed by his predecessor.
Head coach Jerry Kill has had the team reading Dungy's book Uncommon through this winter and spring. The team has really embraced the theme of being Uncommon heading into the 2012 season and having Dungy there to drive the message home was important, Kill said.
"We talk about being uncommon and we're different," Kill said. "In my opinion, he's what you should be in coaching the game of football. It's great for our kids to hear from somebody of their own. His message was to do things the right way and be uncommon. The same message we've been talking about for a long time. It's also reassuring when it comes from Coach Dungy."
Dungy told the Gophers he believes they have what it takes to be the foundation for great things at Minnesota. Within that portion of his talk, he also reminded the group of student-athletes that they are role models and he encouraged them to be people parents would be proud to have their children emulate.
"You aren't going to win the national championship every year," Dungy said. "But you can be that person who everyone looks to, to follow. I'm not sure if this year's team will get to a national championship or not. But I do know this. You can lay the foundation. You can make it such that kids in the next five or six years say 'You know what? I want to go to Minnesota, because I want to be like those guys. I want to play like those guys.' Three or four years from now, then the team is even better than it was this year because you've attracted those guys to come. That's the challenge.
"You can get that done," Dungy said. "I know you can get that done. Whether we win a national championship here next year or two years from now or five years from now, you can feel like you laid the groundwork. That's important."
The legendary coach also told the squad that it isn't always the most talented team that wins. He emphasized the importance of heart and desire.
"Talent is great," Dungy said. "But it's not always the most important thing. It's not about talent. It's not about athletic ability. But playing together, having a goal and not being denied ... now that's important. That's how you win. And I can tell you, you have what it takes here to win."
See highlights of Dungy's talk with the Gopher players in the video below and listen to Coach Kill and MarQueis Gray talk about his visit with the team in the Audio Boo players below.