“Circumstances never determine who we are; they reveal who we are.”
When Chuck Pagano was named the new head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, the team held a press conference to introduce him to the public. Approximately two minutes after Coach Pagano began speaking, I looked at my husband and said, “I like this guy.” That was all the time it took for me to make up my mind about Chuck Pagano.
And apparently, I wasn’t alone. In his book, SIDELINED, Pagano says during his interview with the Colts, he saw General Manager Ryan Grigson write something down and show it to Chief Operating Officer Pete Ward. Ward nodded. After he was hired, Grigson shared the note with him. It read: Players will run through a brick wall for this guy.
SIDELINED Overcoming Odds through Unity, Passion, and Perseverance is a look back on the 2012 season from Chuck Pagano’s perspective. The season he was given his first opportunity as a head coach in the National Football League. The season he took over a young, rebuilt Indianapolis Colts team with a promising (but untested) rookie quarterback. The season he was diagnosed with leukemia and confined to a hospital room for weeks and endured chemotherapy for months. The season #CHUCKSTRONG was born. And the season they overcame together. As Coach Pagano fought for his life, the Colts fought for their coach and made magic on the field.
There were many things that struck me as Coach Pagano walked me through that season week by week, starting with the preseason.
The first is how he bonded with his players right from the start – and quickly. Some of them (Reggie Wayne and Cory Redding), he already had a relationship with. But even with the others, it was apparent early on that his players loved, respected, and would indeed run through a brick wall for “Coach P.”
Pagano also formed a strong and very close relationship with General Manager Ryan Grigson early on. Grigson was the first (and only) call he made to the Colts when he was admitted to IU Simon Cancer Center and immediately began treatment. You can feel the pain, disappointment, and fear on both sides when Pagano recalls the brief, but heavy conversation that took place when he revealed his fresh diagnosis to his boss and friend.
Coach Pagano’s wife, Tina, backs up my theory that behind every strong man is an even stronger woman. In looking back on that whirlwind day when he was diagnosed with leukemia, not allowed to go home (even to pack), and started chemotherapy treatment, Pagano remembers a moment when he and Tina had “an emotional meltdown” and cried together in his room. That was the only time he saw his wife cry during his illness.
And then there’s the magic. The birth of #CHUCKSTRONG, the support that inspired and overwhelmed him, the messages of faith and determination and optimism that bombarded him from all walks of life and all corners of the world. And the fairy tale that played out on the field every week, as his young Colts team found themselves, found each other, and found wins for their coach as he won his fight with cancer.
Football fans (and especially Colts fans) suffering the pains of the offseason will find SIDELINED to be the perfect medicine for their football withdrawals.
What they may not anticipate is the side effect Coach Pagano’s prescription may have on their own lives.
“CHUCKSTRONG or TINASTRONG or YOURNAMESTRONG is about fighting life’s battles, giving it your all, and sticking to it until you win.”
-Chuck Pagano in SIDELINED
Football is life.
And Chuck Pagano is winning at both.