There are several great stories surrounding the Indianapolis Colts -- their rebound to an 11-5 season after 2011's 2-14 campaign, the success of first-overall pick Andrew Luck, and the contributions from little-known players and undervalued rookies.
But there's no question that the story of the Colts -- and probably the NFL story of the year -- is head coach Chuck Pagano's recovery from leukemia, and the job interim head coach and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians did while Pagano was undergoing treatment. When Pagano returned to work on Christmas Eve, he spoke at an emotional press conference in which he tried to thank everyone who had been with him through the journey.
On Saturday, Pagano went out of his way to express his appreciation to a larger group of people. He wrote a letter to the entire state of Indiana, which was published on IndyStar.com.
To the people of Indiana:
When I accepted the job as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts last January, it was a dream come true for me and my family. I knew I was coming to an organization with a great owner and a great winning tradition. I knew Indy had great fans, but I might have underestimated just how great. Being new to the community I never expected the outpouring of support I received from Colts fans throughout the state and country. The love and support you showed my family and me gave me a tremendous amount of comfort and peace. Every letter, success story, prayer and act of kindness made this process a whole lot easier. I am also fortunate to have had some of the best doctors and nurses in the country right here in Indiana to care for me.
I am proud to serve as the head coach of your Colts. I take great pride in knowing that the team has persevered this season because you have shown them the same support you have shown my family and me. You have had a huge impact on my recovery and our season and I look forward to accomplishing great things here for a long, long time.
On behalf of the Pagano family, thank you for helping me heal and for showing our country that we do have the best fans in the entire world; fans whose love for their coaches and players extends way beyond the football field.
The Colts face the Baltimore Ravens at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium today, and there's no doubt that the Ravens will be tremendously inspired to win for linebacker Ray Lewis, who announced this week that the 2012 NFL season would be his last. But just as they have been all season, the Colts will be similarly geeked to win for Pagano, and it's easy to see why.
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