Chuck Pagano is a happy man.
Few things in life are as encouraging as meeting a man who loves his job. The new Indianapolis Colts head coach certainly fits that bill one day into his first training camp as head coach.
He's spent his entire career as an assistant, installing the game plan that others laid down for him. Today, he executed his own plan.
Even though he's been head coach in Indianapolis for months now, for Pagano, there's something special about getting back to work.
"This is a great experience for all of us," he said. "This is a great time for all of us. The energy, enthusiasm, excitement."
Those are key words to describe his personality as well as how he feels about the team. He radiates genuine enthusiasm for the task of building the Colts.
He's starting by laying a foundation of what he believes in. His first lessons emphasize his core values to the team.
"This thing's about family, and it's about serving," he said. "What I told them...was I don't want you to worry about anything but two things: how to become a champion and how to serve. I don't know when that championship will come, but when it does, we'll look back on it and know why it happened."
He knows that the odds are long for his team but is undeterred by that. "Nobody expects this team to do much." He's using that as emotional fuel for his team.
When asked what energizes him about coaching, he responded, "Being around these kids. Being back on the grass...getting back out here, getting back to teaching. It's what all of us coaches thrive on."
Colts players have appreciated his influence and impact already. Starting running back Donald Brown said, "Everything is at a high level, even during our walkthroughs." Players were clear that Pagano had spent the previous night getting them fired up for camp.
This is a big step for Pagano, who has never been a head coach at any level of college or the pros. I asked him how he balances watching the whole team.
"[My attention] has got to be everywhere...I try to get around and show my presence at all the individual drills. I'm going to gravitate to the defensive side naturally, and I have to watch myself in that regard, because that's my background and that's what I've done throughout my career...but I try to get a little bit of everything throughout the day.
Pagano's energy and passion spill out every time he speaks. It's easy to see why an owner looking for a leader of men would have settled on the former Baltimore coordinator to take the helm of his franchise.
Jim Irsay was clearly upbeat about Pagano's influence.
"You talk to those guys in Baltimore, and Ray Lewis and Ed Reed and those guys, the trust and the admiration that they have in Chuck was tremendous. That’s something that they both have and bring into the room when they get with the players because a leader is followed a lot of the times from the heart and from the deep belief. You can’t force someone to follow you even though their contract says it, you must. It comes more from a deeper place and I think the players have a great respect for Chuck..."
He wisely invited iconic coach Tony Dungy to come and speak with Pagano about the challenges of moving from being a coordinator to becoming a head coach. Dungy came away deeply impressed with Pagano.
"I got to spend some time with Coach Pagano...and he's special. I could see why Jim Irsay really hit it off with him...They are going to be in good hands for a long time...He has a plan, and he's not going to deviate from it."
Pagano appreciated Dungy's words to him and to the team, saying that the former coach emphasized to the new coach that the most talented team doesn't always win, but the team that buys into the system the best often finds success.
That's a message of hope in Indianapolis, where early on, everyone is buying in to Chuck Pagano.
All quotes in this piece were obtained by the reporter.