Chuck Pagano has only been the defensive coordinator of the Bears for four months, but the team has already accepted him into their family with open arms.
A group including chairman George McCaskey, general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy traveled down to Indianapolis, Indiana to support Pagano for the seventh annual Chuckstrong Tailgate Gala on Thursday night. The event, which takes place at the Colts’ practice facility, raises money every year to help fund cancer research.
Pagano knows the effects of cancer far too well, having been diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia—the existence of too many blood-forming cells in a person’s bone marrow or bloodstream—in 2012. At the time he entered treatment, he was four weeks into his first year as the head coach of the Colts. He was able to return to coaching for Week 17 and coached five more seasons with the team.
This year’s Chuckstrong Gala raised $1.8 million for cancer research at the Indiana University Simon Cancer Center, where Pagano was treated back in 2012. $1 million of that total came from Colts owner Jim Irsay. Despite having fired Pagano from their head coaching position in 2017, the organization supported him and his preserving pursuit to finding a cure.
The veteran coach expressed his gratitude for the Bears’ staff making the drive down to support the cause in an interview with team reporter Larry Mayer.
“It just speaks to the character and the class of the McCaskey family, Ryan Pace and coach Nagy,” Pagano said. “For them to make this trek down, it’s not an easy ride. We’re right in the middle of the offseason program, so it would have been real easy to not do it. For them to take the time to buy a table and donate to such a great cause—not only from a financial standpoint but the group that came down—it’s very humbling I’m just blown away by it. It just speaks to the family and what they stand for.”
Pagano has big shoes to fill with his predecessor, Vic Fangio, having left to become the head coach of the Denver Broncos. However, if Pagano’s passion on the field proves to be nearly as strong as his determination in the fight against cancer, the Bears’ defense will be in good hands.