Chuck Pagano, whose ChuckStrong Indianapolis Colts rebounded from 2-14 to go 11-5 and reach the playoffs in his first year as coach, today was honored with the George Halas Award, presented annually by the Professional Football Writers Association to the NFL player, coach or staff member who overcomes the most to succeed.

Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia and hospitalized at IU Health Simon Cancer Center on Oct. 1, during the Colts’ bye week. Over the next 12 weeks he directed and inspired his team with phone calls, texts and visits, first from his hospital bed, then from home.

The Colts went 9-3 in Pagano’s absence under offensive coordinator/interim coach Bruce Arians, now head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. Pagano returned for the final week of the regular season and led the Colts to a 20-16 victory over the AFC South champion Houston Texans.

Typical of Pagano’s coaching from afar was a text to wide receiver/punt returner T.Y. Hilton to “stretch and cut, stretch and cut, stretch and cut,” the week of a Nov. 25th meeting with the Buffalo Bills.

Hilton took that advice. He returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown in a 20-13 victory.

One of the most emotional moments came after the Colts beat Miami 23-20 on Nov. 4. Pagano attended his first game after his diagnosis. He addressed the team prior to the game, then returned to the locker room afterward.

He spoke about having a vision, sharing that vision, living it.

"My vision,” he told the team, “I'm living to see two more daughters get married, dance at their weddings and hoist the Lombardi Trophy several times.”