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Colts wisely move on from #Chuckstrong to #Coltstrong

The Colts’ embracing and encouragement of the #Chuckstrong movement in 2012 was borderline brilliant.

The movement, and the subsequent fight from Pagano in his battle with acute promyelocytic leukemia, ignited a fire under the collective bellies of the citizens of Indianapolis and the rest of the state.

After losing Tony Dungy to retirement in January 2009, the Colts have struggled to promote a strong, off-the-field leader. Peyton Manning stayed around through 2011, and was incredibly influential, but didn’t have the same off-field character that Hoosiers admired so much.

As a leader, Manning excels, but as a leader by example. Manning’s work ethic and drive to succeed infected his teammates, sometimes to a fault. Nobody would mistake Manning for a selfless leader, not that it was a criticism of Manning. It simply wasn’t his role to play.

Jim Caldwell tried to take that role, and rumor is that he was loved within the locker room and in the Colts organization. But after a Super Bowl run in 2009, Caldwell’s success on the field dwindled, and fans’ support quickly receded. Dungy, though soft spoken, was an outspoken community leader and actively embraced that role. Caldwell remained in the background, a kind soul, and possibly a remarkable leader, but one whose style would not be embraced by the masses.

Chuck Pagano, however, has taken that role and filled better than imagined in just one year’s time.

Pagano began his campaign in the summer, before the season, pushing the “Build the Monster” mantra. As the summer continued, it was clear that the team bought in. As the veterans voiced their support and admiration for Pagano, fans began to buy in as well. Pagano’s confident words drew them in, and the team’s perseverance and success in the wake of #Chuckstrong hooked them.

2012 was about a rag-tag team’s resiliency and the emergence of Andrew Luck as a franchise quarterback, tied together and delivered to the community by Chuck Pagano and #Chuckstrong.

2013, however, is about the Colts: a single, unified group of men gathered in Indianapolis through a variety of means, whether it be free agency, the draft, or loyal Colts’ from a past regime. And so, the Colts, while not burying the #Chuckstrong movement, are moving forward — to #Coltstrong.

“Nobody had to come in here and say, ‘OK look, take the wristbands off, take all the signs down,’ ” Pagano said, referring to the incredibly popular #Chuckstrong apparel.

“Every now and then, Andrew still wears a T-shirt. Yeah, it’s going to be there. But is that going to be our motivation? Is it going to be our rallying cry? Not necessarily.”

The Colts will continue to use #Chuckstrong as a way to raise funds for leukemia research and reach out in community service, but the focus has changed for 2013 and beyond.

The team is internally pushing the phrase #Coltstrong, offering free desktop and mobile wallpapers and encouraging the use of the hashtag on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.

The phrase itself, and the difference between it and the all-too similar catchphrase of 2012, is telling. No longer is the focus on the individual, but the whole.

As appropriate as it was to promote Pagano during his struggle last year, to stick with the individually-focused campaign after Pagano’s recovery would not only undermine the team, but the unified philosophy that Pagano himself preaches. As the Colts move forward, the organization strives to promote the Colts as a unit, not letting the individual, even one as great and influential as Pagano, dominate the team’s image.

You can see it even in the team’s promotion of it’s young players. Andrew Luck is the future of the franchise, but you would not know it based on the coverage on the Colts’ website.

Interviews with Luck are mixed in with videos of veterans such as Cory Redding, Antoine Bethea, and Pat McAfee. Young players are  given their chance in the spotlight as well, with rookies Bjoern Werner, John Boyett, and Hugh Thornton all getting equal video time as Luck. Stories by writers such as Craig Kelley focus on others, such as Griff Whalen and Darrius Heyward-Bey.

The national media may be focusing on Luck and his development, and rightly so, but the Colts are making a concentrated effort to portray a unified team image.

And it all starts with the team’s slogan transition.

#Chuckstrong served its purpose, and will continue to exist. But the Colts are moving on as one.

As Tony Dungy (and likely Chuck Pagano) recited often: “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Eccl. 4:12)

A collective group of individuals have become, and will continue to be, one unit.

One team, one franchise, one community.

Bound. Hungry. Strong.

#Coltstrong.

Kyle J. Rodriguez

About Kyle J. Rodriguez

A film and numbers guru, Kyle writes about the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts for Bleacher Report, Draft Mecca and The Football Educator, and is a co-founder and associate editor of Colts Authority. Kyle also is a high school sports reporter for the MLive Media Group in Michigan, covering high school sports across the state.

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