Nearly three dozen players on the Indianapolis Colts have shaved their heads in a show of support for head coach Chuck Pagano, who is undergoing treatment for a form of leukemia.
Luck became a new member of the no-hair club Wednesday morning. Players and coaches were not available for comment because they were headed to Jacksonville, but a team spokesman confirmed that Luck will indeed look quite different when he takes off his helmet Thursday night.
"Buzzed heads and orange locks in honour of Chuck," team owner Jim Irsay tweeted. He also included a link to a photo showing many of the players who had gotten buzzed.
Indianapolis (5-3) has gone to great lengths to give their ailing coach encouragement.
Reggie Wayne wore orange gloves against Green Bay, the ribbon colour used to raise awareness for leukemia. Nameplates above player's lockers at the team complex now include orange stickers with Pagano's initials in the middle of Indy's trademark horseshoe. They sent Pagano a game ball after their surprising win over the Packers on Oct. 4. Irsay has placed signs reading (hash)Chuckstrong in each end zone of Lucas Oil Stadium, and the team has been trying to raise money to support leukemia research.
The newest addition to the agenda came late Tuesday when the team said Wayne, Luck and interim coach Bruce Arians would participate in a fundraiser at Dunaway's, a local restaurant, on Nov. 16. They will sign autographs and take photos with fans to help benefit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
So when Pagano showed up in the Colts' locker room Sunday without his greyish hair or trademark goatee, player director of engagement David Thornton decided to bring in a barber following Tuesday's practice.
The idea was an immediate hit — and seems to be growing larger by the day.
About two dozen players, including kicker Adam Vinatieri, defensive end Cory Redding, Pro Bowl safety Antoine Bethea and punter Pat McAfee, left the team headquarters Tuesday night with no hair. It's a new look for McAfee, who had a ponytail until last fall when he cut it off and donated the hair to Locks of Love, a cancer charity.
"We haven't been together long... But we're in this together," McAfee wrote in a Twitter message.
On Wednesday morning, more players joined the contingent, including Luck, the No. 1 overall draft pick and this week's AFC offensive player of the week.
At this rate, all of the Colts could have a whole team without hair playing Thursday night at the Jaguars. Arians, one of Pagano's close friends and a prostate cancer survivor, doesn't have any hair, either, though he's donned that look all season.
Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia on Sept. 26 and remained hospitalized for treatment until Oct. 21. He watched the next two Colts games from his home before doctors allowed him to attend Sunday's victory over Miami. Pagano watched the 23-20 victory from the coaches' box and spoke with his team before and after the game.
"I've got circumstances. You guys understand it, I understand it," Pagano said in an emotional postgame speech. "It's already beat. It's already beat. My vision that I'm living is to see two more daughters get married, dance at their weddings and then lift the Lombardi Trophy several times. I'm dancing at two more weddings and we're hoisting that trophy together, men. Congratulations, I love all of you."
On Monday, Pagano's physician, Dr. Larry Cripe of the Indiana University Simon Cancer Center, said Pagano was in "complete remission." Cripe said Pagano is still scheduled to have two more rounds of chemotherapy. The second round starts this week and will last four to six weeks, Cripe said.
Arians has said the Colts hope to have Pagano back on the sideline Dec. 30, Indy's regular season finale against Houston.
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