An inspiration across football, Colts' Chuck Pagano honored with Halas Award for cancer fight

  • Article by: MICHAEL MAROT , AP Sports Writer
  • Updated: June 17, 2013 - 6:25 PM

INDIANAPOLIS — Chuck Pagano spent most of last season finding new ways to coach football.

During his ordeal of chemotherapy treatments for leukemia, he watched games from his bed with his wife, communicated with players and assistants by phone and text messages and scoured game film on his home computer. The Colts responded with one of the greatest turnarounds in league history and an improbable run to the playoffs.

On Monday, the Professional Football Writers of American selected Indianapolis' inspirational coach as its George Halas Award winner for overcoming adversity.

"I am honored and humbled to receive this award," Pagano said in a statement released by the team. "The encouragement I received from my family, friends, the Irsay family, the Colts organization, the city of Indianapolis and fans around the country was overwhelming. The outpouring of prayers, love and support from a community that hardly knew me, made me realize how fortunate and proud I am to serve this organization and city."

Hired in January 2012, Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia in September and took a leave of absence after only three games.

The team began winning under offensive coordinator Bruce Arians while Pagano underwent treatment for 12 weeks.

Under their guidance, the young Colts rebounded from a 2-14 mark in 2011 to 11-5 in 2012 and the most surprising playoff berth of the 11 the franchise has had in the past 13 years.

Arians often acknowledged that Pagano gave the Colts a sense of purpose. It was never more apparent than the comeback against Green Bay when Reggie Wayne stretched his orange gloves across the goal line in the final minute. Orange is the color designated for leukemia awareness.

Arians called the award "such a fitting honor for Chuck and what he accomplished last year,"

"I've seen some impressive things in my career but nothing compares to what he did beating cancer and coming back to energize our team leading into the playoffs," Arians said. "I was proud to have a front row seat to witness it."

Pagano credited moments like Wayne's TD with the orange gloves and the team's overall performance for keeping him upbeat throughout the grueling and draining treatments that continued late into the fall.

The mutual admiration was never clearer than Pagano's postgame locker room speech following a Week 9 victory against Miami. It nearly brought Arians, Colts players and team owner Jim Irsay to tears.

"I've got circumstances," Pagano said, at times sounding out of breath. "You guys understand it, I understand it. It's already beat. It's already beat. My vision that I'm living is to see two more daughters get married, dance at their weddings and then hoist that Lombardi Trophy several times."

Indianapolis didn't stop there.

It kept winning. Pagano watched another victory over Buffalo from owner Jim Irsay's suite and saluted the crowd, leading to a rousing ovation from the fans.

Pagano returned to coach the final regular-season game, a victory over Houston that cost the Texans a first-round bye and sent Pagano back to Baltimore for the playoffs. But the former Ravens defensive coordinator couldn't figure out a way to upset his old team, which went on to win the Super Bowl.

Arians won the AP's Coach of the Year award for his work while Pagano was sidelined, and now is head coach in Arizona. And along the way, many in the league joined a bandwagon that went far deeper than football.

The Colts began a campaign to raise money for leukemia research and called it CHUCKSTRONG. Many Colts players, including No. 1 draft pick Andrew Luck, shaved their heads in support of Pagano. Two Colts cheerleaders raised $10,000 for leukemia research by shaving their heads during that Nov. 25 win against Buffalo.

Packers center Jeff Saturday, a longtime Indy player, wore a CHUCKSTRONG shirt during warm-ups for a game against his old team in October. After scoring a touchdown in the season finale at Indy, Texans running back Arian Foster tapped a sign in the back of the end zone as a tribute to Pagano before taking his traditional celebratory bow.

Many of Pagano's coaching friends and old players, including Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, hugged him before and after the playoff game.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Do you agree with the NFL decision to deny Adrian Peterson's appeal?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Buffalo 12/28/14 12:00 PM
New England
Cleveland 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Dallas 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Washington
Indianapolis 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Jacksonville 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Chicago 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 12/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
New Orleans 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Carolina 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Atlanta
Detroit 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Oakland 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Denver
Arizona 12/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Cincinnati 12/28/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Marshall 52 FINAL
Northern Ill 23
Navy 17 FINAL
San Diego St 16
Central Mich 48 FINAL
Western Ky 49
Fresno State 6 FINAL
Rice 30
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 2:30 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters
Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon
 
Close