ANDERSON –Reggie Wayne not only is one of the most tenured Colts players, he is the player on the roster who has known Chuck Pagano the longest.
Wayne played under Pagano at the University of Miami, so his working knowledge of the Colts' head coach extends back many seasons.
Wayne and his teammates have seen their coach in action since this spring and now they see him as he is within one week of the first preseason game. To a man, they all like working for their head coach.
"He's toned down……totally. This is a different Chuck Pagano than the college days," said Wayne. "At the same time, he's still fun, he still loves the game, still loves to teach, still gets a kick out of seeing guys improve and get better each day. That's always good. As long as he keeps that edge, I'll take Chuck Pagano any day."
Cory Redding, Brandon McKinney and Tom Zbikowski all played for Pagano in Baltimore, so they have seen him truly in action, only then it was as a position coach or coordinator. Redding sees no difference in the Pagano style now.
"(He's) the same guy, same mentality," said Redding. "The approach he is having with us as a head coach is the exact, same approach he took the year he was the defensive coordinator with (Baltimore) – straight up, tell it like it is, when the guys are doing good, praise them, when things are kind of off key, so to speak, you throw the bullet and the guy takes it in the middle of the head. That's the way we have to do it. He's that kind of guy."
Antoine Bethea is taking his first trip around the block with Pagano. It has been a solid, professional experience for the seventh-year veteran.
"He's been the same, laughing, joking, most definitely a player's coach," said Bethea. "He's someone you can go to to talk about anything. I think that's something we all appreciate about Coach Pagano. He's not a standoff-ish guy. I think that's something as players we all appreciate."
There are only 32 jobs like the one Pagano has and with it comes a wide array of administrative and organizational duties that divert hours from the purest forms of coaching and teaching. It takes time, focus and trust when moving to the chairman of the board role.
"The hardest part is administrative (duties). You're delegating, you're trying to get guys in practice in the right spots and making sure everything is working from an organization standpoint," said Pagano. "At the same time, you want to get hands-on. We had a (family) situation (this week) where an assistant coach had to (leave), so I had an opportunity to get with the safeties. It's really an opportunity. That's the biggest thing, you have to stay involved and you want to be close to coaching and teaching as best you can. With all the other things you have on your plate, that's probably the hardest part for me."
Establishing a regimen is a component for success. Pagano has had 28 previous years in coaching to hone a philosophy, and the one he has set here meets with approval of the players.
"It's (the schedule) similar in certain ways and it's different in others," said Redding. "I believe Chuck understands the guys, understands the work load and puts enough on us where we can get a good, solid practice. They're not out here trying to kill you. You have to be smart.
"Football is a long season. You have to take care of yourselves as much as you can but at the same time, it's that fine line of going hard and when to pull off. I believe Chuck and his staff have put together a great calendar, a great schedule. They know when to put the pads on and when to take the pads off. It's great. Things will work out for us."
Wayne has played long enough to observe different coaching philosophies, and he appreciates the bonding approach shown by Pagano.
"He wants the team to be great. He wants this, first of all, to be a team," said Wayne. "He doesn't want any individual accolades. He doesn't want any of that 'I, I, me, me' stuff. He wants it to be 'we' more than anything. He's building that trust in the locker room with the team, building and trusting each other.
"On the field, he feels as though everything else will take care of itself. He's what you want as a coach. If there is a true thing as a 'player's coach,' he's one of those. He's a fun guy to be around, the whole coaching staff. I get a kick out of them every day."
Zbikowski played in the Baltimore secondary under Pagano. He knows Pagano's role now is much greater than it was with the Ravens, but the person he sees is the same guy.
"He hasn't changed at all, his responsibility has changed. He now has to accommodate for 90 players instead of 15 or 20 in one room," said Zbikowski. "It's a different role. You've got a lot more you have to deal with. He's still just as personable as he was as a defensive back coach, as a defensive coordinator. Really, he gets to know all of his players, from the guys that came from other teams. That was one thing that was brought up on that (other players) might not have had conversations with their other head coach. He's a player's coach. It's still going to be intense. It's all about fundamentals, sound football and playing hard. It's personal to him, and that's the way it should be.
"Now that I've gotten to know from top-to-bottom the organization, I'm very happy with the decision because they care about their Colts here and they care about succeeding."
SPECIAL DEAL – Saturday at Colts camp provided a full circle for Pagano when his father, Sam, attended both practices. Sam Pagano was a legendary coach at Fairview High School in Boulder Colorado. Pagano won three state titles and now has had both sons, Chuck and John (1998-2001) work with the Colts. Chuck Pagano played under his father and noted the special moment Saturday afforded.
"It was special, it's a special deal. It's kind of like me growing up, watching him all of those years. I grew up on the sidelines and watching him run the show for so long, and all of the things you learn along the way. I learned at a very young age, having the opportunity to grow up in what I think is the number one team sport in the entire world. Football's a great, great team sport, and I was fortunate because of my dad to have the opportunity to grow up in the locker room, be around the guys, be around the coaches and watch them work. So it's a special deal."