INDIANAPOLIS -- Chuck Pagano put on his dancing shoes and savored every moment of Sunday’s postgame celebration.
He took his customary linebacker stance on the sideline, hands on bended knees. He signaled touchdowns when the Colts scored, patted Deji Karim on the helmet after a 101-yard kickoff return for a game-changing touchdown, and gestured for penalty flags to be thrown.
And after Indianapolis beat AFC South champion Houston 28-16, Pagano even tossed aside the stodgy image of an NFL coach and began jumping around with players, assistant coaches and even team owner Jim Irsay like he was a kid again.
"There was a lot of high-fiving, a lot of dancing, a lot of hugging going on and a lot of celebrating," an emotional Pagano said. "There’s a lot to celebrate right now."
It started with Pagano’s return.
He took an indefinite leave Sept. 26 to begin the first of three rounds of chemotherapy for leukemia Sept. 26 and didn’t make it back to the sideline until Sunday when the cancer was in complete remission.
When Pagano first walked onto the field, he waved to the fans and hugged his wife, Tina.
When fans gave him a standing ovation after a 1-minute video played on the stadium’s two Jumbotrons just before kickoff, a choked up Pagano held his tears in check.
When he left the field, he hugged everybody in sight -- assistant coaches, Colts players, even Texans players and coaches -- before moving the postgame party to the locker room, where Irsay presented him with a game ball and they did a do-si-do together.