After a man stands toe-to-toe with cancer, no other opponent has a chance. And Pagano has imbued that same fighting spirit in his players.
The coach made periodic visits to his team throughout his treatment in 2012. Each time he implored the players to live by a vision of what they could become and not be limited by their circumstances.
A year ago, as Christmas neared, Indianapolis' story seemed like a fairy tale. Many pundits expected it to crumble after a harsh dose of reality this time around.
It hasn't always been pretty, but Pagano has kept his vision for this team alive by steadfastly refusing to give in to circumstances.
To a man, his players have bought into his simple but effective request — hard work, 60 minutes of effort each game and 100 percent commitment to the team.
A second straight playoff season should prove the Colts have a keeper in Pagano.
But he understands better than anyone that the fight is never over.