MANHEIM – The Chicago Bears named Manheim Central graduate Matt Nagy their head coach in January of 2018. This weekend, the Bears host the team Nagy started his NFL coaching career with, the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Wildcard playoffs.
In order to understand what Matt Nagy means to the town of Manheim, it’s important to understand what Manheim means to Matt Nagy. Here are Matt’s comments about his hometown on the very first day on the job.
“We all have our roots and I want to thank everyone back home in the small town of Manheim, Pennsylvania, Lancaster County for always supporting me. Go Barons.”
His support system reaches far beyond the field. Even the die hard Eagles fans in town are going to have trouble rooting against Coach Nagy on Sunday. Make no mistake, his football foundation begins as a Baron.
The following is the script to the story on Matt that aired on FOX43 News:
(Cars go up and down main street in Manheim)
His name is all over car dealerships in Manheim. Not Matt's, his former teammate's, one of his closest friends, Jason Hondru. Teammates, together in midget football, high school and even in college at the University of Delaware.
"When he was playing football, it was I'm going to be a player or I'm not going to be involved with football at all."
A contact from their college days with the Blue Hens convinced Matt to come to Eagles training camp as an intern. He impressed then head coach Andy Reid and eventually caught on full-time on his staff.
"He's always been a competitor and a winner, he has a drive that not many people have. To expect that he was going to lead them to the playoffs and turn it around this quickly, I don't know if there was a lot of people that were 100 percent sure it was going to happen because there's a lot of moving parts. But not surprised that he's gotten so far this quick."
20-hour work days don't allow a lot of social time so Jason keeps his distance and refrains from contacting Matt during the season. Just like everyone else, he's watching closely, from afar.
"Whether you're going to the barber shop or the pizza shop, it's coming up, it's all over the place and there are Bears viewing parties just about every weekend around town. If you can't find one, you're not looking hard."
We didn't have to look hard for our next stop. Matt's Mom Gail Stouch has the Bears banner out in front of the house. She's already dressed for gameday, sort of. The family is heading up to the Windy City for the Bears and Birds. It's freezing by the lake, she'll need to bundle up. She has a very warm greeting for us though, even took time to stroll down memory lane with an impressively organized scrapbook from his playing days.
"It has been really fun and exciting, it's been a big transition for Matt, Stacey and the boys, the whole family because we really didn't know what to expect."
There are only 32 head coaching jobs in the NFL, Matt has one of them. That means Gail is one of 32 Moms. She's always going to worry, that's what Moms do. It's clear how important the failures have been along this journey.
"Naturally, you remember all of the good times, the disappointments stand out too. As a Mom, you hurts for your child as much as they do. Matt will be the first to tell you that those struggles and disappointments helped him learn to deal with successes in the right way."
Matt led the Bears to the NFC North Division championship this year, winning over the city and converting Manheim NFL fans.
"I'm finding more and more Bears fans, coming out of the woods. The connections we have made with these people, it's fun."
The new Bears faithful mark their spot in town as well, one of them with a Bears flag is right across from our destination.
Elden Rettew Field in Manheim, one of the high-profile, historic high school locations in Pennsylvania. The place where Matt was thrust into the football spotlight. Now, he's the central figure in one of the most iconic venues in all of sports, Chicago's Soldier Field.
(Todd talking to Manheim Central coach Dave Hahn)
"George Halas .. Mike Ditka .. Matt Nagy"
(Coach Hahn response)
"That's a pretty high ranking NFL order right there. George Halas and Mike Ditka, it doesn't get any better, now you got Matt there, that's pretty awesome."
His first year on the Barons staff was Matt's senior year at quarterback, safe to say he made a lasting impression. "What stood out to me was Matt's ability to lead. He was a leader from the get go. He could just rally people around him. He has such a positive energy about him and a fierce competitive energy attitude that guys just wanted to rally around him because he was going to take them where he needed to go."
During the holiday season last year, Matt was a hot candidate for a head coaching position. At the holiday season this year, the Bears are being talked about as a possible Super Bowl team and Matt Nagy is a strong contender for NFL Coach of the Year.