INDIANAPOLIS – Stepping from the top competitive level of one arena to another usually brings instant regard for what it takes to perform.
Such was true for Chuck Pagano and his coaching staff and their families on Saturday when they had an arranged visit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The Colts' second-year head coach served as the honor starter for the opening day of qualifications for the 97th Indianapolis 500.
In addition to waving the green flag, Pagano encountered other experiences that drove home the special nature of the event and what it takes to compete on the race circuit.
Those occurrences included a unique drive around the oval, courtesy of 1969 race winner Mario Andretti.
"It was the chance of a lifetime. It was so exciting. The car ride was unbelievable," said Pagano on Monday after the club's first OTA practice. "To jump into one of those Indy cars and to go around the track at that kind of speed, it's a new-found appreciation for those drivers and the athletes they truly are."
The visit also took the entourage into other areas, where Pagano mixed with another legend.
"Going down in the pits and spending time with an icon like A.J. Foyt…it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sit there and talk shop, see the cars. It was a great experience for all of us," said Pagano. "I'm not a race guy, never have been. Now, I'm living here and got to do something you normally wouldn't have a chance to do. Now, I'm a huge race fan."
Moving in football circles is old hat for a seasoned pro like Pagano. His ride with another seasoned pro around another circle was a matter of adjustment.
"It was fun. It was great," said Pagano. "He's (Andretti) a good guy. He loves doing it. He's not afraid to put the pedal to the metal.
"You get in that car and the next thing you know you're doing 180 (miles per hour), or whatever it is. My stomach dropped. I was thinking, 'Please,' and then it kind of smoothed out. It was a good experience."
Pagano was back to his natural habitat today trying to mold his team into an appropriate response to last year's 11-5 unit.
Teamwork and communication are essentials for a winning football team. Pagano saw first-hand on Saturday how critical those elements are in racing.
"If they're not all on the same page…," said Pagano. "We talk about team, being on the same page, communication and all those things, you just look at a pit stop and the timing of that whole thing. When they come in, they change tires, gas, this, that and the other. Then, the communication (is essential) because those guys are traveling around that track at 220, 230 miles per hour.
"It's unbelievable what the communication and teamwork has to be like. One slip up there... We may miss a tackler here or there but it's not life-or-death. Out on that track, it is."