Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, who is on leave undergoing treatment for leukemia, attended the game between his surprising team and the Miami Dolphins on Sunday after doctors assured him he has immunity from infection.
Colts security protected him as they ushered him into owner Jim Irsay's suite for the game. He made an emotional pregame locker room visit to the team to offer some inspiration, the Indianapolis Star reported.
After a 23-20 victory over Miami, the ailing coach offered even more encouragement.
"I mentioned before the game that you guys were living in a vision, and you weren't living in circumstances," Pagano said Sunday, surrounded by his players and with interim Bruce Arians at his side after the Colts' third straight win. "You know where they had us in the beginning, every last one of them. But you refused to live in circumstances and you decided consciously as a team and as a family to live in a vision, and that's why you bring things home like what you bring home today. That's why you're already champions and well on your way.
Star rookie quarterback Andrew Luck wasn't too concerned that he had just broken Cam Newton's year-old record for yards passing in a game by a rookie or even that his team had another victory. He just wanted to live up to the message from his coach, who has been receiving treatment for leukemia since being diagnosed on Sept. 26.
"His presence is felt every day in the facility," Luck said. "But to see him in the flesh, in the locker room, to hear him speak I think gave all the guys a boost."
It seemed to give Pagano a boost, too.
"I've got circumstances. You guys understand it, I understand it," Pagano told them. "It's already beat. It's already beat. My vision that I'm living is to see two more daughters get married, dance at their weddings and then lift the Lombardi Trophy several times. I'm dancing at two more weddings and we're hoisting that trophy together, men. Congratulations, I love all of you."
On Monday, Pagano will re-enter the hospital for his second bout of radical chemotherapy, sources said.
Pagano made it back to the team complex for a short staff meeting last Monday, the first time he was back with the team since being diagnosed with a form of leukemia Sept. 26.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.