CHICAGO (CBS) — Six years cancer free, new Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said beating leukemia was a breeze compared to the stress of coaching in the NFL.
Pagano was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2012, his first season as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.
“You talk about getting your world rocked. … I started to go, ‘Why me? Why now?’” Pagano told CBS 2’s Ryan Baker. “Then I looked at my wife. I’ve got a wife, I’ve got three daughters, I’ve got three granddaughters counting on me.”
“Give me the game plan, doc. Tell me exactly what I have to do,” he added.
With his family coaching him, Pagano beat cancer.
“I’m six-plus years cancer-free in remission,” he said.
Pagano jokingly said, if there are any risks for him getting back into coaching, it’s the stress.
“Leukemia was nothing. Football is the one that’s going to get you, you know? A two-minute drive, give up whatever. That’s what’ll get you,” he said. “Leukemia was a piece of cake.”
After a year away from the sidelines, the spry 58-year-old is diving back into the non-stop grind of the NFL, taking over the league’s best defense, after he was hired to be the Bears’ defensive coordinator.
“You miss it. It’s in your blood. It’s all I know from this high until today,” he said.
Pagano said it’s “very humbling” to join the Bears, especially knowing the history of the franchise. A statue of Bears founder George Halas stands outside their practice facility in Lake Forest, and former defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan is still one of the most celebrated Bears coaches ever, after leading the vaunted 1985 Bears to a dominating victory in Super Bowl XX.
“It’s a huge responsibility to carry on that tradition. The expectations; he’s [Halas is] watching from up above. Buddy is watching from up above. Everybody is going to be watching to see what this defense does. You want to be in that spot. You relish the opportunity,” Pagano said.
Pagano’s ChuckStrong Foundation has raised more than $6 million for cancer research. When he was battling leukemia, he was determined to walk two more daughters down the aisle. This past summer, he danced at his daughter Tori’s wedding.
He plans on fulfilling another promise with the Bears: raising the Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl champions.