Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay never had a moment like Sunday. He has been around football and the NFL most of his life. The franchise was passed down to him from his father, Robert.
"In my 40 years in this business, I've never been prouder of a team and how they battled back," Irsay said. "I've been in a lot of winning locker rooms, Super Bowl locker rooms, but I've never had an experience like this. People talk about money, what the team is worth, those kinds of things, but this was priceless. Absolutely priceless.
"We walked in, he (Pagano) got up, we all embraced and shed some tears, and Chuck said, 'You know I don't feel so sick right now.' "
Pagano was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia last week and has been hospitalized since. Everything inside Lucas Oil Stadium was about Pagano. Players and coaches on both teams wore shirts with the phase "Chuckstrong" on the front.
A banner with the words hung from the end-zone wall, and quarterback Andrew Luck ran to it and slapped it after a touchdown run. Defensive end Cory Redding shouted, "Give it up for Chuck!" throughout the game. Defensive end Robert Mathis held up a sign with a message for Pagano after the game. Receiver Reggie Wayne wore orange gloves and an orange mouthpiece -- the color for leukemia. The NFL won't fine Wayne for breaking the NFL's dress code by wearing the gloves.
"You know, you see things in the movie, but oftentimes, life isn't as beautiful as they make it out to be," Irsay said. "But this went way past that. This was the stuff of movies. This was beautiful.
"That's as excited and animated as I've seen Chuck. I'll never forget the look on his face when we walked in with the game ball. We'll all treasure this moment forever."