Writer // Janelle Morrison Photography // Submitted
Since 2012, Coach Charles “Chuck” Pagano, his wife Tina and their three daughters, Tara, Taylor and Tori, have called the town of Zionsville their home. Pagano moved to the community when he accepted the position as head coach for the Indianapolis Colts.
Later the same year, Pagano was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia. Throughout Pagano’s treatments, Colts fans from near and far rallied for the new head coach’s recovery. Three months later when the doctors announced that his cancer is in remission, countless members of the Colts community and the local community showed their support of The CHUCKSTRONG Foundation by donating and through their advocacy.
The support and friendship of the locals toward Pagano and his family never diminished but grew over the next several years. Pagano earned that respect and admiration by embracing the community and has often been seen frequenting local restaurants and stores, especially in the off-season.
During the NFL season, Pagano continued to focus on the success of the Colts with the hopes of a Super Bowl Championship. Unfortunately, the fates would not grant Pagano a championship ring, but he leaves the Colts organization with a 56-46 overall record (including the postseason) since joining the team.
Pagano led the Colts to three consecutive 11-5 seasons and playoff appearances, including a trip to the AFC Championship at the end of the 2014 campaign. He also coached 10 Pro Bowl players during his tenure with the team. Pagano was fired by the Colts on December 31, 2017, after the season-closing game, a 22-13 win over the Houston Texans.
The news of Pagano’s firing traveled quickly throughout the sports community and back in his hometown of Zionsville. Locals have reacted to the announcement, and many have voiced their gratitude to Pagano, including Nick Rebic, manager at The Friendly Tavern, which was often frequented by Pagano.
“He [Pagano] is always very receptive and more than willing to take pictures with people,” Rebic said. “Previously, when he re-signed his contract, he came into The Friendly, and he bought everybody’s dinner at the restaurant that night. That was a cool moment. There was another night that he and the former Pacers head coach Frank Vogel came in with their wives. They sat at the bar and hung out. They were both more than happy to take pictures with people, though Pagano was definitely getting more attention than Vogel that night. Pagano just wants to be treated like any other guy and has never asked for special attention. We pride ourselves on treating all of our customers the same, and I think he has been happy to be a part of that.”
Rebic extended his personal thanks to Pagano and his family. “Thank you, Coach, for being part of our community and for hanging out with us at The Friendly.”
A couple of local residents have also offered their thanks and best wishes to Pagano and his family for their contributions to the community and the impact that they have made while living in the community. Jonathan and Cathleen Nalli of Zionsville have been neighbors of the Paganos and were happy to share a few words about the Coach and his family. “It’s been wonderful to share the neighborhood with Chuck and Tina Pagano. They’re friendly, down-to-earth people with big hearts. We always enjoy bumping into them.”
One local resident, in particular, shared her personal story in which Pagano made a lasting impact. Julia Weed, daughter of Jon and Kathy Weed, is currently a junior at Zionsville Community High School. Julia, a soccer player and avid football fan, was going into her sophomore year when she was diagnosed with Parosteal osteosarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer.
“I didn’t have to go through chemotherapy or radiation, and it was all together in one tumor,” Julia shared. “The cancer was behind my knee on my femur. I had a major surgery at the beginning of summer in June before my sophomore year. I was in the hospital for four days. They took out the tumor, but along with the tumor, they had to take out a large chunk of my bone. I had to have a bone graft from my pelvic area, and it was put into my leg.”
Immediately after her surgery, while trying to grasp the magnitude of what had happened to her and what kind of recovery she was facing, Julia’s father, Jon, came into his daughter’s hospital room rather excited.
“I was not super into what was going on, and my dad came in and said, ‘Julia, you’ve got to see this.’ He showed me a video of Coach Pagano talking to me. I was in awe. I am a huge football fan and watch football with my dad every Sunday. We will do nothing else but watch football. It’s football and nachos all day long. Seeing that video was amazing. I knew that training camp had just started, and the fact that Coach Pagano took time to make this video for me left me in awe.”
Julia’s recovery was a slow and excruciating process. It also took a heavy toll on the young athlete’s mental and emotional state. “I couldn’t walk for three months after the surgery,” she said. “I wasn’t allowed to touch a soccer ball until the following January. In the video, Coach Pagano spoke to me about what he went through and told me that he and whole team were behind me. He said that if I ever needed anything, I could always reach out to him. He was so encouraging, and that really helped me. It boosted my spirits so much.”
Julia continued, “Not being able to walk for three months and play soccer my sophomore year killed me. I kept thinking about what Coach Pagano said about how the whole community helped him, and I did have the support of my family, friends and my community, so I knew that I was going to get through this.”
Julia was able to meet Coach Pagano in person on the sidelines before a home game. “He was surrounded by all of these people, family and players,” she recalled. “He came right up to me and talked with me for about 10 minutes. He had remembered what I had gone through, and I remember that he made me feel that I was the only person around him, focusing on me. It meant so much to me. I would like to thank him for taking his time for me and for him to know how much it meant to me.”
The kindness that Pagano showed Julia, along with her entire ordeal, has inspired her to go into nursing after high school, so she can encourage and help others.
There are countless stories about Pagano’s kindness and generosity. He and his family have made a lasting and positive impact on our community that will not soon be forgotten.
On behalf of our local readership, we’d like to thank you for the memories and good times, Coach. Best wishes to you in your new endeavors.
A Few Words From Coach Pagano
Dear Zionsville Community,
When I made the decision to become the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, my wife, Tina, and I did not know much about the area or where to establish our roots. One of the best decisions we made was taking advice from our friends and settling down in Zionsville.
We immediately felt at home in your wonderful town. We frequented the shops on Main Street, enjoyed the farmers market in the offseason and took in everything Zionsville had to offer. But most of all, we enjoyed the people we met, all of you, who are some of the friendliest our family has come across.
We made many lasting relationships and memories during our time with the Colts. Although we fell short of goal our to win a Super Bowl, it was an honor and privilege to serve as your head coach. I’m thankful for the Irsay family and Colts Nation for giving me the opportunity to represent you and serve this community.
Zionsville continues to thrive and its future is bright. We are proud to say we live here. Thank you for everything you have done for my family and me.