The Colts shocked the Green Bay Packers with a 30-27 win at home on Sunday. Andrew Luck brought his team from 18 points ala Peyton Manning-style. Remember the AFC Championship game vs. the New England Patriots in January 2007? Who would have thought all of this was possible in the Colts’ first game without head coach Chuck Pagano?
The mantra “#Chuckstrong” has become an inspiration for the Indianapolis Colts. The team, coming off a bye week, is still reeling from the news that coach would be out indefinitely after being diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia. Pagano, who has been hospitalized and will undergo surgery and chemotherapy, had a tremendous outpouring of support at Sunday’s game. Players, coaches, and fans were wearing t-shirts that said “I am Chuckstrong.” Official #Chuckstrong banners were hung behind each goalpost in Lucas Oil Stadium and Andrew Luck, after scoring a rushing touchdown, passionately pounded the banner in a show of his support. On the sideline, Robert Mathis was seen holding up a sign that read “Chuck Strong.” Team officials wore lapel pins with orange ribbons in honor of the coach. Orange, which is the color for leukemia awareness, was also prevalent among a very productive wide receiver Sunday. Reggie Wayne wore orange gloves and an orange mouthpiece during the game. Orange definitely suited Wayne who logged a career-high 212 yards and a game-winning touchdown. On Wednesday Reggie Wayne was named AFC player of the week for the first time in his career. Immediately after the game, Colts owner Jim Irsay headed to the Indiana University Simon Cancer Center to deliver the game ball to Pagano in person.
Twitter was abuzz with #Chuckstrong trending with stories of Jeff Saturday and the Green Bay Packers wearing a Chuckstrong t-shirts during warmups. Brady Hoke, Michigan football coach, ordered 50 t-shirts for his staff to wear this weekend against Illinois. Support for Chuck Pagano was rampant everywhere, from Colts players and fans to athletes to network sportscasters sharing their favorite Chuck Pagano moments. In an email to the Indianapolis Star, Chuck Pagano wrote, “I am so proud of this team, staff, organization, fans, community, etc…I am the luckiest man in the world.”
The Colts victory Sunday proved many things. Most importantly, the Colts are capable of overcoming adversity: playing without Pagano, multiple injuries (especially on the offensive line), and that they have what it takes to be contenders much sooner than people realize. Here’s to hoping the Colts can sustain this momentum next week against the Jets and further on into the season.
Official Chuckstrong t-shirts are available at www.chuckstrong.org and all proceeds will be donated to leukemia research at IU Simon Cancer Center.