"Chuckstrong" Only Grows In Importance With Chuck Pagano's Return

Mike DiNovo-US PRESSWIRE

Monday will mark the official return of Chuck Pagano, but even when he was "gone," the man inspired the team to reach unbelievable heights.

As you've probably heard, Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who has battled with leukemia over the last several months, has been cleared to return to his regular duties as head coach.

I keep saying this, but life really can't get much better for Indianapolis Colts fans, can it?

The Colts are 9-5, one win away from a playoff berth, and now their seemingly indestructible leader will officially be back on Monday to hopefully lead them into the playoffs.

Wow.

If my team were to clinch a playoff spot in the AFC, a Colts team fighting for their head coach that just returned would be the last squad I would want to face on Wild Card weekend. No, seriously.

When Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia on Sept. 26, the world in Indianapolis seemed to stop. In a city driven by Sunday fever, football became just an afterthought in the hours following the news. All of the optimism that the Andrew Luck era brought seemed to go right out the window.

But that wasn't the case. In this strange, yet inspiring world, every time we are faced with a gut-wrenching challenge in life, the most simplistic and trivial things seem to bring out the absolute best in the situation.

And in Indy, it was no different.

A football team... no, a family, rallied in the honor of their ailing head coach, and the city was right there with them. There were "Chuckstrong" bracelets, banners and Twitter hash tags, shaved heads, inspirational locker room speeches, unbelievable comebacks that came down to the final seconds, and so much more.

"Chuckstrong" was no longer just a hopeful slogan, but something for Indianapolis to live by.

It all started with the Colts amazing, come-from-behind victory over the Green Bay Packers. The day was already kind of special with former Colts center Jeff Saturday returning to his place of business for 11 years, and even though there was hope of a win, no one expected what would follow.

After 11 games without Pagano, the Colts posted an 8-3 record and found themselves in firm control of a playoff spot. Out of those eight wins, six came in the form of game-winning drives orchestrated by a rookie quarterback.

The Colts were the absolute definition of a Cinderella story.

In what seemed like every Sunday, the team would start off slow, putting themselves in position for an all-but-guaranteed loss, but then they would somehow claw their way out of the hole they had dug so deep. It happened over and over.

This team simply did not know how to quit, and if anyone taught them such perseverance, it was Chuck Pagano.

Some think he's rushing back, but unless you're the man or his doctor, you can't make such a judgment. It's only natural for someone to want to return to the normalcy of their life after something like this, but I trust that Pagano is making the decision based on what he believes is best for his health, along with the obvious guidance of his doctor, Larry Cripe.

I know Cripe can't put Pagano on medical house arrest, but if the doc says Pagano is ready to return, I believe he's ready to return.

And when Pagano finally makes his way to the sidelines for the Colts' regular season closer against the Texans, the slogan "Chuckstrong" will have never been more important.

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