The Halas Award is given to an NFL player, coach or staff member who overcomes the most adversity to succeed. The award is named for Halas, a charter member (1963) of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, who was associated with the Chicago Bears and NFL from their inception in 1920 until his death in 1983 as an owner, manager, player and promoter. Halas won 324 games and six NFL titles in 40 seasons as a coach.
"I am honored and humbled to receive this award," Pagano said in a statement. "The encouragement I received from my family, friends, the Irsay family, the Colts organization, the city of Indianapolis and fans around the country was overwhelming. The outpouring of prayers, love and support from a community that hardly knew me, made me realize how fortunate and proud I am to serve this organization and city."
Pagano's 2012 season proved to be one of the most inspirational stories in NFL history. Named head coach of the Indianapolis Colts on Jan. 25, 2012, he was forced to take a leave of absence just three games into the season after being diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia, a curable form of the disease, which is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow cells.
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Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians assumed interim head coaching duties while Pagano underwent treatment for the next 12 weeks of the season. From his hospital bed, Pagano was in constant communication with the coaching staff and players. He analyzed practices while continuing to game-plan schemes. Along the way, Pagano continued to make his presence felt. After the team's Week 9 victory against the Miami Dolphins, Pagano gave a moving postgame speech to the contingent in the locker room.
"I've got circumstances," Pagano told the locker room. "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."