So many things could have happened. But in the end, the right thing happened.
The Colts chose to bring back head coach Chuck Pagano. And the players and fans rejoiced. Because Chuck Pagano is more to Indianapolis than a football coach. Chuck Pagano is a fighter, a cancer survivor, a winner. Chuck Pagano is a Hoosier. And now, with a new contract, he’ll be a Hoosier for four more years.
Calling it, “Absolutely the best day of my life,” it was a feel good end to a season that felt at times like it would never end. Once it did (at 8-8) and amid speculation about his future, players and fans rallied in support of Pagano, launching a #ChuckStay campaign on social media.
When Black Monday began, it felt like it was a foregone conclusion that he would be gone. But as the day went on, a glimmer of hope appeared. And it got brighter by the hour. Just like Chuck Pagano fought for his life, he fought for job. And he won.
Why do people feel so strongly about Chuck Pagano?
Let me tell you a story.
The first time I met Coach Pagano was at training camp a few months after I started working with the Colts. Communications director Avis Roper introduced me to him because he doesn’t like to see a face without having a name to go with it. Pagano didn’t just shake my hand. He asked me how I was and if there was anything he could do for me. Stunned, I said, “I’m a blogger who’s writing for the Colts. I think I’m good.”
A few days later, he saw me walking from the parking lot up to the practice field and from the other side of the chain link fence, he yelled, “Hey, Heather!”
It was true. Once Chuck Pagano knows your name, he never forgets it. It’s like a magical super power. He’s known for it.
Chuck Pagano makes everyone feel important. Because everyone is important to Chuck Pagano.
A few days after that, I was walking from practice back to the media trailer and he pulled up in his golf cart. “You want a ride?” he said. I accepted.
We chatted for a bit and then he asked me a question.
“How are the guys treating you?”
“Great,” I said, slightly surprised. “Polite, respectful, they couldn’t be better. In fact,” I told him, “I can honestly tell you there’s not one guy on this team that I don’t like.”
“Good,” he responded. “That’s what I like to hear.”
It’s easy to ask someone how they’re doing. But he didn’t ask me that. Chuck Pagano had a real question for me and he wanted a real answer. Because he really cared.
And suddenly, I understood why the players love him, why they support him, and why before he hired him, General Manager Ryan Grigson said they would run through a brick wall for him.
Because at that moment, I would have too.
There are so many times in life when you can choose to walk away or stay and work it out. The Colts chose to keep Pagano and Grigson. To work things out. And to move forward as a family. And I couldn’t be prouder of them for doing it.
Life is complicated and messy. And so is sports.
But sometimes, it’s in the mess that you find what you’ve been looking for all along.