The NFL‘s biggest highlight this weekend wasn’t Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin’s 251 yards and four touchdowns. It wasn’t quarterback Andrew Luck’s rookie-record 433 passing yards, either.
No, the most memorable moment of this NFL weekend — and possibly this NFL season — didn’t come on the field at all. It took place in the Indianapolis Colts locker room, rather, after coach Chuck Pagano attended his first game since beginning treatment for leukemia in September.
In an emotional post-game speech, Pagano congratulated the Luck-led Colts on a big win, but also reminded the world that we love sports for much, much more than the games themselves.
“I mentioned before the game that you guys were living in a vision,” a visibly weakened Pagano began.
“My vision that I’m living is to see two more daughters get married, dance at their weddings, and then hoist that Lombardi [Super Bowl trophy] several times,” he continued in a shaky voice to rousing cheers coaches and players. “Several times we’re gonna hoist that baby. I’m dancing at two more weddings and we’re hoisting that trophy together, man.”
Pagano has been on leave from the team for most of the season, and was hospitalized for more than a month before returning home in late October. He’s supposed to start his second round of chemotherapy later this week. While he’s stayed in intermittent contact with his team via series of letters, Sunday marked his first time back in the locker room.
The poignant moment became a hot topic among online sports fans immediately after it was broadcast on Sunday, and you can watch for yourself in the embedded YouTube clip above.