02/26/2013 03:35 pm ET Updated Apr 28, 2013

How Did That Happen?

"You can't always control circumstances. However, you can always control your attitude, approach, and response." -- Tony Dungy

There is nothing quite as inspiring as attending an NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Honors Celebration. Our college, Valley Forge Christian College, is in the first of a four year provisional relationship with the NCAA-Division III. Three colleagues joined me for the national NCAA Convention where over 3,200 others came together, including Division I and II participants, to address the challenging world of student-athletics.

From the moment we arrived at the airport and later at the hotel it was obvious the NCAA was a well-run organization. Each workshop, the plenary sessions, and the business meetings reflected that the NCAA really is a "membership-driven" organization. The exquisite planning was obvious everywhere.

More than once I thought of the old Chinese question, "When is the best time to plant a tree?" and the correct answer, "20 years ago." And, the follow-up question, "When is the second best time to plant a tree?" and the correct answer is, "Today." Perhaps we should have joined the NCAA 20 years ago but, since we didn't, today is definitely the right time.

The highlight of the convention was the Honors Celebration. Ten extraordinary student-athletes from the previous year, six silver anniversary student-athletes from 25 years ago, one Inspiration Award and one Award of Valor were honored that night.

The highest honor conferred on an individual by the NCAA is the Theodore Roosevelt Award. This award is given to a distinguished citizen of national reputation and outstanding accomplishment who also excelled as a student-athlete participating in NCAA competition. This year the award went to Tony Dungy.

Dungy was a star football player for the Minnesota Gophers and though he played professional football, he is best known as a coach with several teams. The highlight of his coaching career was when he guided the Indianapolis Colts to victory in Super Bowl XLI.

Referring to his own career and also to the careers of all of the awardees, he asked this question, "How did that happen for all of the awardees to be so honored like this?

Dungy identified five people whose influence helped him succeed. First, he spoke of his parents. When he complained to his father about life not being perfect, without sympathy, he told his son, "Don't complain; figure out a way to make it better." Dungy knew he had to accept responsibility and find a solution himself.

His mother, however, was more empathetic. And, when he complained to her, she said, "Keep your eyes on the Lord." He learned from her how important it was to seek the Lord's help at all times.

The third person who influenced him was Dave Driscol, his high school football coach. Dungy was 14-years-old and in tenth grade when Driscol told him, "Talent is God-given, be thankful; Praise is man-given, be humble; Conceit is self-given, be careful."

The fourth person of influence was Cal Stoll, his football coach at the University of Minnesota. He was only 17-years-old and Coach Stoll said what he needed and what he was looking for was uncommon because "success is uncommon." He went on to say that gifts and talents are rare but if one had "desire of heart," great things could be done.

Dungy's rookie year in football was with the Pittsburgh Steelers. There Chuck Noll, his fifth influencer asked, "What does it take to win a Super Bowl? Champions are not champions because they do extraordinary things but rather, they do ordinary things in an extraordinary way."

Jack Ford, the emcee of the evening could not have described Dungy any better, "Perfect message; perfect messenger." No wonder we had to wait nearly 30 minutes in line to shake his hand.

Where would any of us be without all of those influencers who helped us just when we needed it most.

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA
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Originally published in The Phoenix,