RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas –
Team Randolph received a surprise visit June 1 from Super Bowl XLI champions the Indianapolis Colts.
Team president Bill Polian, head coach Tony Dungy, and five team players represented the organization, which was recently honored by the Air Force Recruiting Service with the American Spirit Award.
"The Colts have shown incredible continued support to the Air Force and to our recruiting efforts," said Brig. Gen. Suzanne Vautrinot, AFRS commander. "They are to be applauded for their sustained excellence both on the field and in their communities."
During their visit, the group toured the simulator complex where they practiced flying a T-6 Texan II, visited with military children at the elementary school, toured several flying units and static display aircraft on the flight line, and held a special assembly for Team Randolph members in the base theater.
Coach Dungy said one of the highlights of his visit was seeing the 99th Flying Training Squadron, which holds historic ties to the Tuskegee Airmen.
"My dad was actually in the service," he said. "He graduated from high school in 1944 and went into the Air Force and was part of the Tuskegee Airmen, something that is very special to me.
"Just to see where the Air Force has developed from here, it has kind of completed the circle for me. I know this would have been a very, very proud day for my dad to be here and see what (the Air Force) has evolved into."
Team Randolph men and women assembled in the base theater to hear some inspiring words from Mr. Polian, Coach Dungy and Colts Safety Bob Saunders.
The three talked about the importance of setting goals and overcoming setbacks, as well as their march to the Super Bowl.
"We try to create an environment where we all work together for one goal and I think that's what is so great about us being here," said Coach Dungy. "We see the same thing being done here."
The coach talked about the team's visit to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington D.C. earlier in the year and how much it touched him.
"Just to see our servicemen with such great spirit and to talk about getting back with their comrades and wanting to finish the job - that's what its all about and that's what we strive to create," he said.
The coach also spoke of the importance of setting goals and following your dreams.
"That really is the most important thing and something we talk to our team about all the time," he said. "We made it our goal to win a championship and we faced some disappointments along the way. But what made me so proud of our team is, even with so many people telling us we couldn't get there for this reason or that, they didn't buy into it. They kept their focus and earned a championship."
Sanders echoed his coach's emphasis on the importance of teamwork as he spoke of their Super Bowl win this past season.
"Working as a team is what won it for us," he said. "It was all of us coming together and believing in one another. We told ourselves this is our time, our day, and we're going to fight until the end. But you can't get there alone. You have to stand by your teammates and believe in them, and you have to keep pushing to get better every day."
The safety added everyone will face defeat at some point, but it's part of the game.
"You can live with losing if you know you gave it your all," he said. "Even at your best, you will sometimes face a team who that day, at that time is simply better. But its something you overcome."
Coach Dungy and Mr. Polian also talked about the importance of overcoming setbacks.
"I remember the first time my high school had ever lost in football to our cross-town rivals," he said. "It was my first year playing on the team and I was devastated. I've lost NFL playoff games, games where if we won we were going to the Super Bowl, but none of them hurt me as much as losing to Jackson High."
But as devastating as the loss was, the coach said it was irrelevant to the big picture.
"Every situation can seem like the worst defeat you're ever going to face, but you still have to get up the next day. You still have to go to work and press on. Getting knocked down isn't the worst thing in the world - its how you respond to it that counts. You have to persevere. You always learn more from your defeats than your victories."
Mr. Polian also shared his experience of overcoming setbacks as he spoke of the team's crushing loss to the New York Jets after just restructuring the team program and gaining new leadership.
"There we were, embarrassed on national television 40 to nothing, and out come the critics and they're hitting us tooth and nail," he said. "... then I get a call from a guy in Cleveland (where they were playing next) and he says to me 'Can you possibly think you can overcome the psychological devastation your team has gone through getting beaten by the New York Jets 40-0'?"
Fortunately, the Colts did beat the Browns and made it to the playoffs as they have every season under Coach Dungy.
"But the lesson to be learned is it's not the critics who count - they don't know what you're feeling. It isn't the general public who counts - as my old general manager used to say 'If you listen to the fans, you'll end up sitting with them.' We tell our players it's the coach they need to listen to. He can tell you how to get the job done, and then listen to themselves. You define who you are and control your own outcome. These are the principles we have followed the last five years and they've served us well."
The words of Coach Dungy, Mr. Polian and Saunders were enough to inspire at least some audience members. Staff Sgt. Jason Leighton of the 12th Flying Training Wing and an avid New England Patriots fan, a Colts rival, said he was even touched by their words.
"Its amazing that someone who makes millions would take the time to talk to us on a personal level," he said. "Everything they said really came from the heart and I appreciated their words. What I'll remember most is no matter how many losses may come your way, you just need to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and overcome."
The Colts have worked closely with AFRS for many years. This year, the team started the "Colts in Motion Tour," an interactive marketing campaign in which Colts players and cheerleaders go on tour with Air Force recruiters to promote community awareness.
For more photographs of the Colts' visit, go to the Randolph Web site at www.randolph.af.mil.