The circumstances surrounding the Indianapolis Colts and coach Chuck Pagano transcended the game of football. The relationship between Pagano, the organization and the community developed on a different plane as he was diagnosed with and treated for leukemia.
Pagano returned to the field for the first time in the regular-season finale and has the team ready for Wild Card Weekend to face the Baltimore Ravens, for whom he was defensive coordinator in 2011. Pagano published a letter to the fans in The Indianapolis Star on Saturday:
To the people of Indiana:
When I accepted the job as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts last January, it was a dream come true for me and my family. I knew I was coming to an organization with a great owner and a great winning tradition. I knew Indy had great fans, but I might have underestimated just how great. Being new to the community I never expected the outpouring of support I received from Colts fans throughout the state and country. The love and support you showed my family and me gave me a tremendous amount of comfort and peace. Every letter, success story, prayer and act of kindness made this process a whole lot easier. I am also fortunate to have had some of the best doctors and nurses in the country right here in Indiana to care for me.
I am proud to serve as the head coach of your Colts. I take great pride in knowing that the team has persevered this season because you have shown them the same support you have shown my family and me. You have had a huge impact on my recovery and our season and I look forward to accomplishing great things here for a long, long time.
On behalf of the Pagano family, thank you for helping me heal and for showing our country that we do have the best fans in the entire world; fans whose love for their coaches and players extends way beyond the football field.
Follow Kareem Copeland on Twitter @kareemcopeland.