"Don't think you're not here." Was the text message sent from interim head coach Bruce Arians to Coach Pagano before the Colts took the field against the Packers Sunday afternoon.Head coach Chuck Pagano who we know by now was diagnosed with a treatable form of Leukemia and will not be with the team and remain in the hospital for at least six weeks, even after there are still questions as to if he will be able to resume his head coaching duties this season. Emotions were high at Lucas Oil stadium with players and coaches of both teams wearing shirts reading “ChuckStrong” recognizing and supporting the cause of Indy’s ailing head coach. A new look Colts team at that, 1-2 before Sunday with uncertainty in the present for sure but a promising future with number one overall pick Andrew Luck as the new field general and the face of the franchise. But on this Sunday with the pretentious powerhouse Green Bay Packers in town what were the realistic expectations to have for this game? As a Colts fan since they had Edgerrin James at running back I was eager for a positive outcome but I’d be blowing smoke if I told you I had any insinuation of what was yet to come. No clue these group of men would rally and fight in honor of a man who was only three games into his first head coaching gig. With his presence felt throughout the stadium, it's maybe by coincidence or request to think he is sitting in a hospital bed which is only two miles away. But even in that passion filled stadium at halftime the score read Packers 21-3 with the game seemingly headed towards a blow out. Let’s rewind for a second though, who is this Chuck Pagano guy? I’ll give you some quick history, his coaching career started in 1984 as a graduate assistant at USC, with a unwavering passion for coaching it lead him to a few other stops in the college ranks even the former powerhouse Miami aka “The U” from1995-2000 where he coached special teams and the defensive backs, there he also recruited a young receiver by the name of Reggie Wayne. Pagano finally got his break in the NFL in 2001 coaching for the Browns, Raiders secondary and his last stop in Baltimore as the defensive coordinator before he received the head coaching call from the Colts. Pagano’s coaching journey is one that would be defined by the patience climbing the ladder of progression. A model of consistency and hard work is what comes up when Pagano’s name is brought up around the league. So I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise when I read In a column on sportillustrated.com by Peter King where he stated “All week, even though Pagano was supposed to be in his second week of an arduous chemotherapy regimen to attempt to blast the leukemia out of his bloodstream, his mind was with his team. Every day he'd watch the practice tape sent to his iPad, sending out suggestions to individual coaches”. A man fighting a battle with his health and lively hood that still has the passion to contribute to what he loves to do, coach football. And with one final message sent to his team before the game inn a power point e-mail his only request for his guys not to be worried about him but to focus on being .500 by the time 4:30 came games end. It took them a half to settle down but they sure did deliver on that message as they turned a 17 point halftime deficit into a 30-27 victory in a one of the most inspirational TEAM performances I’ve seen. Sack after sack of the reigning MVP, every catch by Reggie Wayne in traffic seeming to more grueling then the next, especially game winner where was able to stretch the ball out for the touchdown with defenders draped all over him. In his 12 year of his career, 10 playing with the great Peyton Manning, Wayne has a career day of 212 yards catching passes from a rookie quarterback? Nevertheless it was a stimulating performance inspired by the man who believed in a high school kid from New Orleans and recruited him to “The U”and the rest is now history...4th quater...The clock winding...the Packer get into field goal range for one last play.... With maybe a little help from the man upstairs the Packers line up for a game tying kick from the sure footed Mason Crosby ... a knot in the chest of all Colt faithfuls .….wide left!......the stadium erupts! ….a kneel down by Luck….the Colts win one for Chuck. What a game, what a win, and it's only right who received the game ball...
Determination can produce what seems like miracles. But maybe it's about the effort we put forth to be apart of something bigger then ourselves when we are rewarded.
This post is not just about Chuck Pagano, its about anyone that you know who is going through a battle with cancer. For the strength they need to get through it, we as loved ones must continue to let them know they are not alone in this battle.Cancer may have started the fight, but through constant love, faith, payer and family we are more then equipped to punch back! Giving up will never be considered an option. Through every dark avenue, that light, that victory is right around the corner!
Dedicated to my brother Tracey Hudson