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Colts coach Dungy's oldest son found dead

James Dungy, the 18-year-old son of Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, was found dead in a Tampa-area apartment. No foul play is suspected, but a cause of death won't be announced pending an autopsy, sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said.

LUTZ, Fla. (Dec. 22, 2005) -- James Dungy, the 18-year-old son of Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, was found dead in a Tampa-area apartment.

No foul play is suspected, but a cause of death won't be announced pending an autopsy, sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said.

James Dungy's girlfriend found him when she returned to the Campus Lodge Apartments at about 1:30 a.m., Carter said.

He wasn't breathing, and a sheriff's deputy performed CPR before an ambulance rushed him to University Community Hospital, Carter said. He was pronounced dead there.

Carter said "nothing evident" was amiss in the apartment, but declined to discuss details.

Tony Dungy has left the Colts and is in Tampa, where he used to coach the Buccaneers. The Colts (13-1) will play Dec. 24 at Seattle, and team president Bill Polian said that assistant head coach Jim Caldwell has taken over for Dungy.

Indianapolis lost its first game Dec. 18 against the visiting San Diego Chargers, ending what had been a perfect season.

"The thoughts and prayers of everyone in this building are with Tony and (wife) Lauren, their children and their extended family, and for the repose of James' soul," Polian said at a news conference at the Colts' training facility in Indianapolis. "This is a tragedy for the Dungy family and by extension his football family here with the Colts."

Owner Jim Irsay and Polian met with team officials and players to break the news.

"It was not easy, and it was somber, to say the least," Polian said.

Caldwell will take over "for however long Tony will be away and however long he will be away is entirely up to him," Polian added.

Chaplains were brought in to talk with the team.

"I don't think there's anyone here that would wish to play a football game under these circumstances, but it's our obligation and we'll fulfill that obligation because that's what Tony wants us to do," Polian said.

The Dungys have four other children: daughters Tiara and Jade and sons Eric and Jordan. James, their second-oldest child, was taking extension classes at the University of South Florida, the sheriff's office said.

James Dungy spent his senior year at North Central High School in Indianapolis and graduated this year. C.E. Quandt, the school's principal, said Dungy was a personable student who never flaunted his father's position.

"He just came in and tried to blend in and be a student," Quandt said. "I liked James a lot."

Quandt said Dungy visited North Central a week or two ago to pick up a transcript. He said the death surprised and saddened everyone at the school.

"It kind of diminishes our school family," he said.

A woman who answered the door at James Dungy's girlfriend's home declined comment.

Jessica James, 18, who described herself as a close friend of James Dungy, said she and a group of friends went to the movies with him the night Dec. 19.

"He was cracking jokes, just being himself," she said. "This morning, it was so surreal."

She said Dungy "was just a really good kid, very laid-back. Unless you asked him, you'd never know he was Tony Dungy's son."

James stood 6-foot-7 and was sometimes was mistaken for one of his father's players, The Indianapolis Star reported on its Web site. James and his younger brother, Eric, sometimes watched Colts games from the sidelines, but they had to earn it by doing well in school.

The mood was also somber at the Buccaneers' practice facility, which is next to the airport where the Colts' plane that brought Tony Dungy to Florida was parked for a time. Players and coaches could see the plane from the practice field.

"It shakes you, there's no doubt about it. Tony and I first came together in 1992 and I got to see the boy grow up. ... Tony's got tremendous faith, and that's what will carry Tony through," said Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, who worked for Dungy at Tampa Bay. "He's unbelievable. I know what Tony's thinking. I know how he'll handle it. It'll be his faith that will let him stand strong, but that doesn't mean it's easy."

James Dungy was a frequent visitor to the Bucs' practices and games when his dad coached the team.

"He was here all the time, hanging out in the locker room and with the players on the field," fullback Mike Alstott said. "If James wasn't here, it was like: 'Where's James?' He was part of this football team.

"There's no words to describe it. I'm a father of three and I can't imagine getting a phone call or being told that."

New York Jets coach Herman Edwards, one of Dungy's closest friends, called James a "very, very good kid.

"The whole family is good people. You know Tony, how he raised a family," Edwards said from Jets training camp in Hempstead, N.Y. "A tragedy. I know the prayers of the National Football League go out to him and his family."

Arizona coach Dennis Green, who was Minnesota's head coach when Dungy was the team's defensive coordinator, said he was "devastated" to hear the news.

"It seems like just yesterday when we were all together in Minnesota," Green said in a statement. "I remember James, who was about 6 or 7 at the time, just loved being around the facility and the team and most of all being around his dad."

Philadelphia coach Andy Reid said his team's thoughts and prayers were going out to Dungy.

"You hate to see anything like this happen," Reid said. "Nobody likes to see that. Tony's a great person with a great family."

Dungy took over as coach of the Colts in 2002. His first head coaching stint was with Tampa Bay from 1996-2001; he was an assistant with the Minnesota Vikings from 1992-95.

Two other NFL head coaches lost close family members this season, both in November. Don Parcells, brother of Dallas Cowboys coach Bill Parcells, died of brain cancer in New Jersey at age 62; Steve Belichick, father of New England Patriots' coach Bill Belichick, died at 86.

The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2005, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved

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