"I've cried so much already, it's like I don't know if I have any more tears in there," Wayne said when asked how that Dec. 24 team meeting went. "I'm just glad to see him back. He's a great man as well as a great coach."
The private reaction was nothing like the rousing reception he received Dec. 30 when an entire league watched Pagano walk back onto the Lucas Oil Stadium turf, put on his headset and lead the Colts to a 28-16 victory over AFC South champion Houston.
Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips hugged Pagano. Arian Foster tapped the Chuckstrong sign in the back of the end zone after scoring a touchdown and during the locker room celebration, Robert Mathis prompted Pagano to jump around and chant like he was a teenager.
For the Paganos, this is just the start.
He will continue to undergo regular checkups and take medication to ensure the cancer does not return.
He will spend many of his spare hours helping others battle leukemia and other forms of cancer.
He will cherish all that time he has with his family and friends.
But most of all, he's grateful.
"You always look at these opportunities and understand how lucky you are and what a privilege it is to coach and play in the National Football League," he said. "I don't know if it's changed me. I know I never really took anything for granted and most certainly now, I don't take anything for granted, not one day, and if I can pass that on with an even greater, stronger message with the people I work with and you know the guys we coach, that might have a little bit more credence to it."
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