By on November 25, 2012

Chuck Pagano (right) on the sidelines September 23, 2012 in Indianapolis versus the Jacksonville Jaguars. At this time no one could imagine the inspirational impact he was about to give the Colts and the Indianapolis community (photo by: Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE)

The head coach of an NFL team may be one of the most influential figures in sports. Not only does he control an NFL franchise, many of which are valued in the billions, but he is also a leader in the community in which he coaches. Having all this responsibility can be too much for some guys, especially when they are facing this task for the first time. First time head coach Chuck Pagano of the Indianapolis Colts has all of these challenges to deal with this NFL season. However, those challenges are nothing compared to what he’s had to face off the field.

Pagano was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia earlier this year, first reported by Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star. Three games into the 2012 season Pagano revealed he had this treatable form of cancer and will likely miss the remainder of the season with this affliction. Although he will survive this ordeal Pagano will have to deal with chemotherapy and the pains that accompany it. Although he will live, he’ll have to stay strong and fight because anyone who’s been through it knows cancer sucks.

But while this rookie head coach had so many things to deal with on and off the field, the Indianapolis community has responded, on and off the field. The game after Pagano was diagnosed the 1-2 Colts played the Green Bay Packers at home. The Colts and their fans supported their ailing coach on Twitter by getting the hashtag “#CHUCKSTRONG” to be a trending topic. The Colts organization hung banners and gave players for the Colts and Packers shirts with the #CHUCKSTRONG hashtag. The community has continued this initiative with the Chuck Strong campaign and Indianapolis has stuck with their coach.

The players have been key leaders in the initiative, but have also given the fans something to rally around on the field. Since starting 1-2 the Colts have won six of their last eight games to put their record at 7-4, starting with that Packers game. In that game the Colts rallied from a 21-3 halftime deficit to win 30-27. The fight that the Colts showed to come back and win that game resembles the fight Pagano has had during the whole season to stay strong and the community has had in supporting him.

Indianapolis Colts cheerleaders Crystal Ann (left) and Megan M get their heads shaved by Colt mascot Blue during today’s game against Buffalo. The cheerleaders raised over $22,670 for cancer research in support of Colts coach Chuck Pagano (photo by: Brian Spurlock-US Presswire)

This week against the Buffalo Bills the Colts won 20-13, but the continuance of the Chuck Strong campaign was the story in Indianapolis. Two cheerleaders, Megan M. and Crystal Ann, shaved their heads in support of Chuck Pagano at halftime of the game. After members of the team shaved their hair in support of Pagano’s fight with cancer Blue, the team mascot, tweeted at the Colts cheerleaders to see if they would also shave their heads. Megan agreed to do so if Colts fans would fundraise over $10,000 for cancer research, according to a story in USA Today. $20,000 later she and a fellow cheerleader are bald in support of Chuck Pagano.

Despite the raw deal Pagano was dealt, his team and his community have responded to pick him up in this time of struggle. Pagano, his team, Colts fans and the city of Indianapolis have all stayed strong for him; they’ve all been “Chuck Strong” in the face of this adversity.

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