For Chuck Pagano, leading the Colts from a 2-14 disaster to the playoffs in a year would have been the achievement of a lifetime.
But the fact he set the stage for that climb while fighting for his life made it more memorable.
The Pro Football Writers of America announced that Pagano has been selected as the 2013 George Halas Award winner. The annual award is given to the player or coach who overcomes the most adversity to succeed.
Pagano was diagnosed with a form of leukemia, and had to take a leave of absence three games into last season to receive treatment.
He stayed in contact with the coaches, they left the lights on for him, and he dropped in from time to time with inspiration.
“I’ve got circumstances,” Pagano told his team the locker room after a win over Miami. “You guys understand it, I understand it. It’s already beat [referring to the leukemia]. It’s already beat. My vision that I’m living is to see two more daughters get married, dance at their weddings and then hoist that Lombardi Trophy several times.”
They didn’t quite reach that level last year, losing to the Ravens in the playoffs.
But the fact that Pagano was back on the sidelines for that one, and ready to try to go again, made him an easy choice.