For those that have missed the story, Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano is battling acute promyelocytic leukemia. His bravery and spirit have been an inspiration to his team, who took that energy to the field on Thursday night in their fight with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Pagano delivered a stirring locker room speech on Sunday, revealing a bald head caused by chemotherapy. Around 30 of his players had their heads shaved in support.
Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck has stepped up as a team leader this season. He is proud to play for Pagano and was one of the players to go bald.
“Coach Pagano’s an inspiration,” Luck said via the Washington Post. “When I found out this morning he’d be here, I was giddy. Excited. Jacked to see him in the flesh. We all were. I love him. We all do.”
It is that inspiration the team saw after their win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
Pagano was supposed to take it easy on Sunday and avoid exposure to the team as his immune system is worn down.
He ignored the message, just as his team ignored that they weren't supposed to win many games. After all, they were bad enough to "earn" the top draft pick last season and are being led by a rookie quarterback.
Yet the Colts stand at 5-3 and could be 6-3 after Week 10. They shouldn't have won six games all season.
Bruce Arians is holding down the head coach duties, likely for the balance of the season, while Pagano undergoes additional treatment. The team is 5-1 since he took the helm in late September.
It is impossible to know if the team is playing better with Pagano as an inspiration vs. as their acting coach. The team isn't going to question it, though. They will continue to play for the coach they love.
Next season we'll get to see how the team responds with him standing on the sidelines. For now he is there in spirit and in the hearts of his players.