INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano has won the George Halas Award from the Professional Football Writers Association for overcoming adversity.
Hired in January 2012, Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia in September and took a leave of absence. The team began winning under offensive coordinator Bruce Arians while Pagano underwent treatment for 12 weeks. Pagano worked from his hospital bed on game plans and analyzing practices even as he was recovering from the disease.
After a Week 9 victory against Miami that he attended, Pagano gave an emotional postgame speech to the team.
"I've got circumstances," Pagano he said. "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 kept on winning. Pagano watched a victory over Buffalo from owner Jim Irsay's suite and saluted the crowd, leading to a rousing ovation from the fans.
He returned to coach the final regular-season game, a victory over Houston that gave the Colts an 11-5 record. They lost their first playoff game, at Baltimore.
The team began a campaign to raise money for leukemia research and called it CHUCKSTRONG. Several Colts players shaved their heads in support of Pagano. Two Colts cheerleaders even raised $10,000 for leukemia research by shaving their heads during that Nov. 25 win against Buffalo.
Arians won the AP's Coach of the Year award for his work while Pagano was sidelined, and now is head coach in Arizona.