#ChuckSTRONG is bigger than a game

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Simply put, football is just a game.

This season has presented plenty of reminders that there are things in life larger than sports. The same players we idolize and who appear to be larger than life are constantly humbled and reminded that they’re human like everyone else.

If you need further proof, ask Torrey Smith, Victor Cruz or the Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs organizations how quickly lives can change by the actions of someone else off the football field.

In the midst of tragedy, there are stories of triumph. One of those is the inspiration that is Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano.

Pagano spent four years as a member of John Harbaugh’s staff before he was offered a head coaching job by the Indianapolis Colts. After seeing how players departed Baltimore for Indianapolis via free agency and the way he’s respected by his peers, it’s easy to understand why Jim Irsay offered him the gig a year earlier than most national of the national media thought he would be pried away from Baltimore.

As a Ravens fan – or resident of Baltimore for that matter – I’ve been raised to root for the failures of the Indianapolis Colts, the Irsay family and anyone donning a horseshoe on their helmet. Personally, I don’t have anything against any of them; in fact, I’m a huge fan of Peyton Manning and admire what he’s been able to do throughout his career. However, I’ll never forgive those who upset my grandfather so much in 1983.

At the time, I was a mere fetus when Mayflower trucks left town overnight. I didn’t know any better as a young child, but I learned the football history that preceded my arrival.

The bond that I’ve been able to share with my grandfather over football is one of the greatest joys in my life. Having the Ravens to cheer for has helped him close the wounds that were created almost 30 years ago. Seeing how much he loves the Ravens, I could only imagine how much it hurt him and the rest of the city when the Colts left.

As the Ravens have helped close the wound of those who cried as the Colts headed west for Indianapolis, Pagano may be the final stitch to ultimately allow the hatred to completely heal.

Video: Ravens players and coaches talk about facing Chuck Pagano

As Pagano dialed up an all out blitz during a battle with Leukemia, his Colts have been nothing short of storybook in his absence, under the leadership of interim head coach Bruce Arians. No Week 17 storyline was bigger than Pagano’s return to the Colts’ sideline on Sunday and the icing was spread on the cake as his team knocked off the Houston Texans (who were playing for no less than the AFC’s top playoff seed) to finish the regular season.

People thought Pagano’s Colts were good while he was receiving chemotherapy, but with Pagano on the sidelines coaching, the team isn’t only inspired – they’re downright dangerous.

My anticipation for Sunday’s playoff game is higher than usual. Is it because it’s the playoffs? Sure. Is it because the Ravens get to play at home? That’s a nice compliment as well. However, the main reason is because I’m excited to watch my favorite team face a squad led by a person who I have the utmost respect for. A true warrior.

Chances are, cancer has touched your life in some way, shape or form. For me, it was my sister being diagnosed with Leukemia at the age of four. I was eight at the time, and since, I’ve devoted a large chunk of my life to helping children with cancer. There is no doubt that I’ve somehow received more inspiration from them than I’ve ever been able to deliver to them. It’s not being selfish; it’s just the way those things work out.

On Sunday, I’m more excited to stand up and clap for Chuck Pagano and his victory over cancer than I am for potentially watching Ray Lewis run out of the tunnel for what could be the final time of his career.

Pagano may wear a different team’s colors and apparel but he means a lot to Baltimore and those inside the Ravens locker room. Not only has he coached many of them but he’s impacted their lives in other ways. Ed Reed – who was recruited to the University of Miami by Pagano – said when he heard of Pagano’s Leukemia diagnosis that Chuck was a father figure to him.

Of course, we all hope the Ravens are victorious on Sunday and advance to get some of our future Hall of Fame players another shot to hoist the Lombardi trophy, but if they lose to the Colts, I’ll accept it.

The Ravens will be one of the final chapters to the story the Indianapolis Colts have written this season. Either they’ll end the Colts’ season or fall victim to a team that appears to have destiny on their side.

When the clock reaches 0:00, I’ll stand up and clap once again for someone in Colts gear – ONLY because it’s Chuck Pagano.

Once again, bigger things than football do exist.

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