The easiness of the embrace runs much deeper than anything just football related.
It isn't just because the Colts are 5-3 and in possession of the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoffs, just one year after winning a measly two games.
It's also not because rookie quarterback Andrew Luck looks—at least through eight NFL games—like a player who could become one of the game's all-time greats at the position.
Certainly, these factors play a tiny role.
The real reason for embrace has been how the entire organization continues rallying around head coach Chuck Pagano, who was diagnosed and hospitalized with Leukemia on Oct. 26.
Wednesday gave us our latest rallying cry, according to Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star.
A number of Colts players, including Luck, Cory Redding, Adam Vinatieri, Donald Brown, Antonio Bethea, Vontae Davis, Darius Butler and Anthony Costanzo, shaved their heads in support of Pagano, who entered his second round of chemotherapy this week.
Punter Pat McAfee chimed in on the decision, via Chappell:
It’s all for Chuck. We all don’t look good. I’m not built to have a bald head. I’ve got a huge sniffer. But we all love our coach so much that we want to show unity and let people know we’re all in this together. It’s a really cool thing.
Wednesday's support is just the latest in over a month's worth of support for Pagano. The amount of support given from the players, coaching staff, organization and fans has been overwhelming.
Here's the entire list from the Associated Press (via ESPN):
- Veteran receiver Reggie Wayne wore orange gloves against the Green Bay Packers on Oct. 4, the first game without Pagano as the head coach. Orange is the color associated with Leukemia awareness.
- The nameplate above each locker at the Colts facility has an orange sticker with Pagano's initials.
- The game ball from the Colts' 18-point comeback win over the Packers was sent to Pagano at the hospital.
- Colts owner Jim Irsay has placed the phrase "Chuckstrong" in each end zone at Lucas Oil Stadium.
- Irsay and the Colts continue raising money for Leukemia research and awareness.
- Wanye, Luck and interim head coach Bruce Arians are scheduled to appear at a fundraiser for Leukemia research on Nov. 16.
The hair shaving came after Pagano gave a heart-tugging speech in the Colts locker room Sunday following Indianapolis' 23-20 win over the Miami Dolphins.
Here's a portion of that speech from Sunday, via the Associated Press (ESPN):
I've got circumstances. 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 lift the Lombardi Trophy several times. I'm dancing at two more weddings and we're hoisting that trophy together, men. Congratulations, I love all of you.
Pagano, once complete with flowing grey hair and a full goatee, had lost his trademark appearance because of the intensive chemotherapy treatments. The Colts decided to replicate the look.
It's just another heat-warming story coming out of Indianapolis, a city and team that has rallied around their struggling coach.
The situation may even have a story-book ending, as doctors announced Pagano's cancer was officially in remission Monday, according to Indianapolis Star.
It would only be fitting if Pagano can return to the sidelines by Dec. 30—the current plan following a third round of chemotherapy.
Not only would fans in Indianapolis celebrate that return, but also the majority of other NFL fans, who have quickly embraced Pagano and the Colts as their de facto second team in 2012.