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June 17, 2013

Pagano wins Halas Award for overcoming adversity

ANDERSON — Chuck Pagano's battle against leukemia served as inspiration for NFL fans across the nation last season as the Indianapolis Colts made a remarkable run to the AFC playoffs.

On Monday, the Pro Football Writers of America honored Pagano as the 2013 George Halas Award winner. The Halas Award, in its 44th year, is given each season to the player, coach or staff member who overcomes the most adversity to succeed.

"I am honored and humbled to receive this award," Pagano said in a statement released by the Colts. "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 could not have been a difficult choice.

Hired as Indianapolis' head coach on Jan. 25, 2012, he was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia just three weeks into the regular season.

Then-offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, now the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, assumed Pagano's position on an interim basis as his close friend began treatment.

At the press conference announcing his new role, Arians said he would leave the light on in Pagano's office at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center until the head coach returned.

That gesture became a symbol of Pagano's fight, and he quickly found supporters across the country.

The Colts began the "CHUCKSTRONG" campaign that raised money for leukemia research through the sale of t-shirts and wristbands and held a fundraiser and blood drive during an Oct. 21 home game against Cleveland.

More than 30 players — and countless fans — shaved their head in solidarity with Pagano, and two of the team's cheerleaders raised $10,000 for leukemia research by having their heads shaved on the sideline at Lucas Oil Stadium during a Dec. 9 game against Tennessee.

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