"I wanted nothing to do with it," Matt explained. "I was angry. I was done playing. I said I wasn't going to be that guy who hangs on. It's the NFL or nothing. I'll just move on with my life."
That was the tenor of the late 2001 conversation between Matt and his father, Bill Nagy.
For much of Matt's life, Bill lived at a distance, but it's the way in which Bill worked through it that helped shaped Matt's perception of family, and what they do for each other.
Nagy and his father Bill
photo courtesy of the Nagy family
The conversation that day was surrounding a tryout for the Arena Football League's New York Dragons, which was setup by Matt's agent at the time.
Just a year earlier, Matt had finished up his collegiate career at Delaware by becoming an All-American as a senior-setting more than a dozen school records.
At that point, Matt's dream was to play in the NFL, and he was close a few times. He had a couple of tryouts, including one with the Green Bay Packers that took place on September 11, 2001.
It was a memorable trip, but not because it led to an opportunity to play in the NFL.
To this day, Matt remembers watching the television coverage of the terrorist attacks that claimed 2,996 lives in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia that fateful day. He was in the locker room of the Packers' facility with Brett Favre, Doug Pederson and others, glued to the television, along with everyone else around the country.
Matt was forced to remain in Wisconsin for seven days after the tryout as flights were grounded, and all rental cars were gone.
It's a time he remembers like it was yesterday, but not for the reasons he was there in the first place. His next opportunity was in a place he didn't want to be.
Matt's father, Bill, was a prominent high school football coach in New Jersey, who coached the likes of current New York Jets head coach, Todd Bowles, among many others during his time at Elizabeth High School in New Jersey. Bowles was on their state championship team before moving on to play collegiately at Temple, and then making his way to the NFL.
Before he got into coaching, Bill was a pretty good player himself-earning All-American honors as a defensive tackle for Bloomsburg University. He also spent some time in the World Football League.
Now, he was trying to help his son understand the opportunity the AFL (Arena Football League) could provide.
The Nassau Coliseum in New York was the home of the Dragons, and that's where Matt would try out that day. It was just a short drive for Bill, who at the time was living in New Jersey.
Even as he was lacing up his shoes on the sideline before the tryout, Matt didn't want to participate.
"I was almost to the point where I was browbeating him because he didn't want to go out there," Bill recalled. "[Matt] went out there very reluctantly, but once he got out there, he just started lighting it up.
"I can remember the other [Dragons] players were actually yelling to (Dragons coach) John Gregory, 'Sign him! Sign him up!'
"I'll never forget that."
He said he was going to offer me a contract with the team. And then he told me, 'You really remind me a lot of Kurt Warner.'"
- Nagy on his tryout with the New York Dragons
After the workout, Gregory, who had a successful past of developing quarterbacks in the AFL, pulled Matt off to the side.
"He said he was going to offer me a contract with the team," Matt recalled. "And then he told me, 'You really remind me a lot of Kurt Warner.'
"That was the one phrase that stuck with me," Matt noted. "That's all I needed to hear."
Warner had played for Gregory for three years with the Iowa Barnstormers before embarking on a 12-year NFL career that's led him to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Matt ultimately signed to play that next season with Gregory and the Dragons (2002), and would go on to spend time with the Carolina Cobras (2004), Georgia Force (2005-06), and Columbus Destroyers (2007-08) as well. He finished his six-year AFL career with 374 touchdowns and just 55 interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 115.1.
Nagy while playing for the Destroyers
photo courtesy of the Nagy family
On two different occasions (2005, 2007), Matt helped lead his team to the Arena Bowl-the league's championship game. He was a natural leader-a natural athlete.
Growing up, he played every sport imaginable. Matt's first memory of sports was a swim meet, and he still has pictures of him racing BMX bikes as a kid. He also played tennis and was a bowler, along with playing basketball and baseball.
After his parents divorced, Matt, who was an only child, went with his mother and moved back to her hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which is two hours west of where his father was living in New Jersey.
Stacey, Matt's mother, Gail, and Matt after a game at Delaware
photo courtesy of the Nagy family
"It was hard for her to have a job, and for me to come walking home on my own from school every day until she got back from work," Matt explained. "I didn't have brothers or sisters or a father figure to come home to. That was difficult, and I know that has probably always bothered her, but she did a great job of making that seem 'normal' for me. We had a great relationship growing up. She was always there for me.
"She got remarried, and she lives in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, now."
Despite the divorce, Matt's mother and father, who both remarried, had a great relationship, and still do to this day.
"A lot of my friends in high school thought they were still together because they were so friendly around each other," Matt explained. "They get along. If that had gone a different direction and my dad would've handled it differently, I could have turned out different.
"But he was always there for me. He's never wavered."
I said to myself that there was a bit of a distance issue here, but no matter what happens, I'm not going to allow the distance to interfere with me being in Matt's life."
- Bill Nagy on seeing Matt grow up
Despite having two kids-Luke and Jenna-with his new wife, Bill was always a central figure in Matt's life.
"I said to myself that there was a bit of a distance issue here, but no matter what happens, I'm not going to allow the distance to interfere with me being in Matt's life," Bill explained.
It wasn't always easy though.
Bill would drive the two hours to Lancaster almost every weekend-sometimes bringing Luke and Jenna with him, and it was often sports that brought them together.
It's a theme Matt had learned at a very young age-sports were often the root of it all.
"By the grace of God, Matt's mom – and to this day we've always been very good friends – she understood that because I did come all that way, she graciously allowed me to stay at her place and spend the weekend with Matt," Bill explained.
Bill recognized Matt's football talents at a very early age. He recalled a game he was watching with Matt's grandfather, Carl Ibach, when Matt was playing quarterback at just 11 or 12 years old, that always stuck with him.
"He took the snap and was rolling right, and the defensive end was knifing in on him," Bill recalled. "The defensive end lunged at him across his face and thought he was going to create a fumble, and Matt put the ball behind his back in counterclockwise motion to his right hand, and pitched it to the option guy. The back got the corner and ran.
"I looked at Carl, and Carl looked at me, and we just shook our heads like, 'This is unbelievable, man.'
"It was something you couldn't coach, and we knew right then that Matt was going to be something special."
Ibach, who was a key figure in Matt's life, passed away before Matt got to high school and took over as the starting quarterback at Manheim Central High School.
Manheim Central High School
The Manheim community and football program are Pennsylvania's version of "Friday Night Lights."
It's the kind of community where the high school coaches visit the youth games on Sunday mornings to see what's coming through the pipeline. The youth coaches also teach many of the same schemes the kids will use at the high school level.
This is an environment where Matt thrived.
"He was a legendary player for us," Mike Williams, who recently stepped down after 34 years as head coach to be an assistant, said of his former quarterback. "Everybody said Matt was very un-coachable-that he's so intense that you just can't coach him. I realized if you tried to get on him, if he makes a mistake and you try to get on him, he's just going to go the opposite way.
"We coach our players hard. With Matt, it was just a little different. He was so intense."
The most memorable moment in Matt's high school career, which had just two losses-both of which came against the same team-Berwick, wasn't a good one.
As a junior in the state semifinals against Berwick, a game that took place at Hershey Park in Pennsylvania in front of more than 20,000 people, Manheim was trailing by a touchdown with just a few seconds left in regulation.
They had the ball at the four-yard line.
"I threw a slant route and didn't see the linebacker," Matt explained. "They picked it off. The crowd went nuts. The game was over, and I was absolutely devastated."
It's a moment that has driven Matt throughout his entire football career, and one he remembers vividly to this day.
"It motivated me," Matt mentioned. "It was a bad play, but I think in the end, if I could rewind back to my whole football career, that one play helped push me to the top in a lot of different areas."
The Manheim community, which eats, sleeps and breathes football, didn't chastise their young quarterback after the interception that ended the playoff game, but rather lifted him up.
"I got so many letters from parents and people around the community after that game telling me to keep my head up," Matt recalled. "That meant the world to me."