INDIANAPOLIS —Chuck Pagano has coached many, many talented safeties over the years, but as it turns out, he has some of his own experience on which he can draw when discussing the nuances of the position.
While the diehard Colts and Pagano fans know the Boulder, Colo., native "was a four-year letterman and two-year starter at strong safety for the University of Wyoming and graduated with a degree in marketing in 1984," as his Colts.com profile states, an ESPN.com article released today gives us a little bit of a closer look at the player Pagano was on the field in college.
That story, by NFL Nation's Kevin Seifert, ranks the playing careers of all 32 NFL head coaches. It's a pretty fascinating look at how some have turned successful NFL and college careers into success at the highest of coaching levels, while some have backgrounds that include mediocre high school careers and have climbed all the way to the top from there.
Where does this place Pagano on this spectrum? Somewhat in the middle, ranking 19th on Seifert's list. Here's the dirt Seifert was able to dig up on Pagano's playing days at Wyoming, where he wore No. 5 for the brown and gold:*Position, top level played: Safety, FBS
Pagano was a two-year starter at Wyoming and played a total of 33 games between 1980-82. Statistics from the time credit him with no interceptions, but he did have nine pass breakups, three fumble recoveries and one forced fumble.Something you might not know: Pagano played his home games 7,220 feet above sea level at Wyoming; War Memorial Stadium is the highest-standing Division I stadium in the country. That experience might or might not have helped the Colts to one of their biggest victories in Pagano's coaching tenure, a playoff victory in Denver, where Sports Authority Field sits a mere 5,280 feet above sea level.*
That's some pretty good production out of the safety position, if you ask me.
Pagano took that experience to become the first graduate in Wyoming history to become an NFL head coach in 2012, when he was hired by the Colts after stints as an assistant with the Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders and Baltimore Ravens, at at the college level.
Now, with one notable exception, Pagano does have some athletic bragging rights among his fellow AFC South head coaches, coming in as having the second-best playing career on Seifert's list.
Only Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Mularkey — at No. 4 overall — had a better playing career, as he played nine seasons at tight end in the NFL.
Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley comes in at No. 22 overall on the list. He was a safety and punter at Division II North Dakota State.
And rounding out the list is 24th-ranked Bill O'Brien, the head coach of the Houston Texans, who played linebacker and defensive end at Brown University. According to the article, O'Brien was known to be a little bit of a trash talker during his college days.