Lancaster County native Matt Nagy tells NBC’s Peter King about his journey from Manheim Central to Da Bears
CHICAGO — The Chicago Bears earned their first NFC North Division title since 2010 with Sunday’s victory over the Green Bay Packers, thanks in large part to the contributions of first-year head coach Matt Nagy, a Lancaster County native and former standout quarterback at Manheim Central High School.
Nagy, who went on to star at the University of Delaware and spent a few seasons in the Arena Football league before beginning his long journey through the NFL coaching ranks, is featured by NFL writer Peter King in King’s weekly “Football Morning in America” column.
After spending several years under Andy Reid with the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs — starting out in an entry-level quality control position and rising to a job as Reid’s offensive coordinator with the Chiefs after Doug Pederson left to take the head coaching slot with the Eagles — Nagy finally has his shot at leading a team. All he’s done in his first season is lead the Bears to a 10-4 record. He’s the first rookie coach to earn 10 wins in his first season since George “Papa Bear” Halas.
King got Nagy to speak about his long journey to the Bears sidelines.
“So I was always having to prove myself. Growing up, I was a kid that wasn’t highly recruited out of high school (at Manheim Central), and I took a I-AA offer to Delaware. I always thought, ‘I’m not going to be one of those guys who just hangs on and plays semi-pro ball or whatever.’ Throughout those years, there were some blows.
“Twice in high school we lost in the Pennsylvania state semis to the same team (Berwick). At Delaware, I was crushed to never be able to win a national championship. I felt that if someone just believed in me, if someone just gave me a chance, I could have made the NFL. But nobody gave me that chance. I go to the Arena League, and boom, that league folds.
“I’ve got a family, the recession hits in real estate, and football’s gone. So it was tough times. And working that real estate job, the one thing I always said, ‘I don’t want a job.’ I had a coach in the Arena League, Doug Plank, who once told us, ‘See those people you pass on the road on the way to work? Ninety-five percent of them hate their jobs. You’re part of the 5 percent. You’re lucky.’ Here I was. I wanted to do what I loved. I liked real estate, but I didn’t love it.
“Sometimes things in life happen for a reason, even when you don’t know why you’re going through it. And one day, I was sitting in the garage of a spec house in Annville (Lebanon County), and the phone rang with a 215 area code, and it’s Andy Reid. I had a friend, Brett Veach, who I went to Delaware with and played football with, and he caught on with the Eagles, and he helped me there. Andy said, ‘I’m gonna give you an entry-level job.’ It was a quality control job.
“Once I got the call, I knew I was set. I knew I would make it. I didn’t care about all the long drives, driving 99 miles each way to Philly for a year, waking up every day at 3:30 am, sleeping in the office some nights. I was given an opportunity by one of the greatest coaches in the National Football League. That is all I needed.
“To anyone in my shoes now … Obviously, I got a break. But I was just going to keep going. I just always believed things happened for a reason, and I was going to work my way out of it.”