The Six Conversations That Changed Matt Nagy's Life |


The Six Conversations That Changed Matt Nagy's Life

The journey of the Chiefs' offensive coordinator

By BJ Kissel

Chiefs Reporter

All Matt Nagy ever wanted was an opportunity to show what he could do at the highest level of football he could reach in that moment.

"I wasn't given the opportunity to play Division I football out of high school, and in my opinion, I felt I could," Matt explained. "I wasn't given an opportunity to play in the NFL out of college, and I felt I should have."

It wasn't easy for the current Kansas City Chiefs' offensive coordinator. The path to the NFL was never clear.

Undaunted, the journey to this point in his career wouldn't have happened for a lot of people in the same situation.

Nagy had the audacity to gamble-to take calculated and sometimes seemingly illogical risks inspired through advice he received from a diverse group of people: a college teammate, a gym owner, a residential builder, and a high school football father.

Alex Smith and Matt Nagy

Nagy talks with Alex Smith at practice

Nagy listened to the advice. It's why he's here in Kansas City, where he has spent the past four years helping veteran Alex Smith become the third-winningest quarterback in the NFL over that time, and why he will be an instrumental figure in shaping rookie quarterback Patrick Mahomes' future.

Matt Nagy and Patrick Mahomes

Nagy talks with Patrick Mahomes at practice

Once he got his chance, it took only seven NFL seasons for Matt-the 39-year old married father of four-to work his way up to an NFL coordinator position. His journey from the football-crazed area of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to a chance tryout that landed him in the Arena Football League, and then to the highest level of football in the world hasn't necessarily been the fast track it seems.

Matt's story is one of a family man who risked everything by betting on himself in one of the biggest moments of his life, and how an unbridled passion for the game has been the root of his family coming together since he could first wrap his hands around a football.

To his family, football has always been more than a game.

Here are the six conversations that changed Matt Nagy's life, and defined the risks he took:

First Conversation

Chase the Dream or Remain Financially Stable?

It was late-February in 2010 when Matt and Stacey Nagy, who had been married for eight years and together since he was a "big-time" sophomore and she was a senior at Manheim Central High School in Pennsylvania, had a discussion that ultimately changed the trajectory of everything they had planned for their young and growing family.

Football had been Matt's life from the time he was a kid-growing up less than 15 miles from the house he and Stacey had settled in with their family, and he was faced with a decision of whether or not to continue chasing that dream.

Matt had a job in real estate, which was provided to him by a man Stacey still calls an "angel" to their family. Matt was paid well and could comfortably provide for them. They also had four kids under the age of six years old.

The Nagy family

The Nagy family

photo courtesy of the Nagy family

"Matt always had this idea of a big family," Stacey explained. "So, I thought after two boys, I can do one more, we'll have the girl and live happily ever after."

"We tried for a girl and got twin boys," Matt laughed.

"Twins do not run in either side of our family so it never crossed my mind in a million years," Stacey added. "So, when I found out, I thought, 'He always gets his way.'"

It had only been two years since Matt's Arena Football League career, which lasted six years, had ended, and the former college All-American was coaching high school football-cultivating his passion each fall.

Matt Nagy while working for the Philadelphia Eagles

Nagy while working for the Philadelphia Eagles

Over the previous two summers, Matt had also been a coaching intern with the Philadelphia Eagles-an opportunity presented to him by an old college friend and teammate, Brett Veach, who would be a part of a couple of the key conversations in Matt's life.

The internship with the Eagles was a way to keep his name and face out there in case an opportunity presented itself.

And then, it did.

There was an opportunity to join the Eagles' staff as coach Reid's assistant-a job Veach had and was departing from for a role on their personnel staff.

It was an opportunity many wouldn't have thought twice about accepting.

You're talking about somebody's dream. I saw how he was – he wasn't miserable by any means – but it wasn't a passion that he had to sell houses like he does with football.

- Nagy's wife Stacey Nagy

For Matt, the job meant cutting his salary by two-thirds-a decision with implications that stretched far beyond himself.

"This was pulling at him," Stacey explained of this decision. "It was a huge risk, and I come from a family that doesn't take risks, so, I knew we were going out on our own with this. My family couldn't really back us, they were like, 'You have four kids and you're going to be an assistant and get paid what?'

"They didn't understand that's where most people start."

For Matt, the decision meant chasing a dream.

For Stacey, the decision meant a lot more would be on her plate, as well as the "revolving door" of family members who were always around to help.

"You're talking about somebody's dream," Stacey added. "I saw how he was – he wasn't miserable by any means – but it wasn't a passion that he had to sell houses like he does with football.

"Now, he'll come home from working a 12-15-hour day, and if there's a game on or if there's film to watch, he's watching it. He just never really shuts it off, he loves football."

To this day, they still talk about the conversation which led to Matt accepting that first job with the Eagles.

"I had a pretty good salary at the time and it was a risk, but we said, 'You know what, let's go all in and let's do it,'" Matt recalled. "So, I told my boss-somebody who has a special place in my heart because of the way he took care of me and my family during that time, and we did it."

Stacey, who ran track and cross country in college just outside of Philadelphia at West Chester University, understood the competitive nature of Matt to continue chasing his dream, which became their family's dream as well.

"It's more than a game, it's always been a way of life for our family," Stacey explained. "There was just this sense of emptiness, and we knew the risks we were taking.

"It just felt right."

And years before that, the chance to play in the Arena Football League almost didn't happen.

Second conversation

"You remind me of Kurt Warner"

"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

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.

Nagy and his father Bill during Nagy's playing time at Delaware

Nagy and his father Bill during Nagy's playing time at Delaware

photo courtesy of the Nagy family

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

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

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

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."

Third Conversation

Matt's Most Memorable Moment at Delaware

photo courtesy of UD Athletics Communications Photo

One guy who remembers watching that game against Berwick on television was Veach, who was recently named the Chiefs' new general manager after serving as co-director of player personnel since 2015.

Veach was a year younger than Matt and grew up about 60 miles from him in Mount Carmel.

Brett Veach and Matt Nagy

Brett Veach and Matt Nagy

"I was pulling for Matt and Manheim because I wanted to see Berwick lose," Veach recalled of watching those games during Matt's junior and senior seasons. "Those were state championship-caliber teams Matt was on at Manheim, but they could never get past Berwick.

"We never played against each other, Matt and I, but we were close enough that we knew of each other," Veach added.

Matt Nagy at Delaware

Nagy at Delaware

photo courtesy of UD Athletics Communications Photo

Veach would join Matt at the University of Delaware.

Despite being courted by the University of New Hampshire, and their running backs coach at the time, Chip Kelly, Matt enjoyed the "family" atmosphere of Delaware.

At the time he went to Delaware, 11 of the 12 coaches on staff had played there, and Matt said it reminded him of his hometown.

Matt was recruited there by Gregg Perry, who was the offensive line coach and promised Matt, a pocket passer, that they'd tweak their offense to suit him. Delaware was known for running the Wing-T-a run-heavy system, particularly for the quarterback.

"Coach Williams did a great job training Matt," Perry, who was at Delaware when former NFL (and Chiefs) quarterback Rich Gannon played there, explained of recruiting Matt out of Manheim Central. "As a high school quarterback, Matt could recognize two-deep, three-deep, and what people were trying to do with their coverages. He did a nice job with their protections and getting to the right calls well before he got to Delaware."

Football, and everything with it, came naturally to Matt.

When asked of his favorite memory in college, Matt recalled a particular play against Villanova, which at the time was led by their star running back Brian Westbrook, who would later go on to play for the Eagles for eight years and make two Pro Bowls (2004, 2007).

After falling behind big in the first half by a score of 35-10, Matt recalled the play that got them back into the game.

Nagy and Veach after the winning touchdown

Nagy and Veach after the winning touchdown

It wasn't necessarily a conversation, but there was an unspoken language on the field that day that stands lucid in Matt's memory.

"I looked out to my right and [Veach] was lined up for a slant route," Matt recalled. "I looked out to him, and he looked in to me, and he just tapped his head and I tapped my head, to signal a go-ball, a fade. He ran a quick fade in the end zone and I put it up to him and he caught it for a touchdown, and that kind of catapulted us. It gave the momentum going forward.

"We ended up winning the game 59-42, but that memory of Brett and I, and where we have come from-that was special."

It's almost poetic, considering how far they've each come from those days and where they are right now.

It was the first of many moments that've connected the two-former central Pennsylvania prep standouts, who learned at an early age that football was a way of life where they're from.

"When you grow up in central Pennsylvania like we did, that's the pride and joy of that state," Veach explained. "When you're young, the only thing you want to do is go with your parents to a high school football game. I remember being as young as four or five years old and going to games with my dad, and that's all I ever wanted to do.

"Football is engrained in you from an early age. Whether it's a player, coach or personnel guy, it's basically who you are. It's in your blood, and it's going to be a part of your life.

"If you're around Matt for a few hours, you just know that the sport consumes him. It's who he is. It's part of his DNA."

Fourth conversation

Larry Wisdom - "I'll always be indebted to him"

There are only a few people in the world who could put together the connection between the current Director of Performance for the Baltimore Ravens, and a high school classmate of Chiefs' Assistant Head Coach Brad Childress' in Chicago.

But when telling Matt's story, the connection between these two men and the conversation they once had is paramount to Matt's journey.

Nagy while with the Columbus Destroyers

Nagy while with the Columbus Destroyers

In 2008, not long after finishing up his second season with the Columbus Destroyers of the AFL, where Matt threw for over 4,000 yards with 74 touchdowns and just eight interceptions that year, Matt learned the AFL was in financial trouble, and would be cancelling the 2009 season.

It was a huge problem.

Matt's salary is what had supported their family. Stacey had given up her teaching job at that time to stay home with the kids.

Everything changed.

So, Matt's whole focus went from hoping and working towards a shot in the NFL-to trying to figure out how to support his family.

Back in 2003, just a year after joining the AFL, Matt suffered a torn ACL and was out for the year. He was recovering and rehabbing at a local gym near his hometown, which was owned by a guy named Steve Saunders.

"That was really the beginning of Matt and I's relationship," Saunders, who remains close friends of the Nagy family to this day, explained of that time. "I was his strength trainer, therapist, and psychologist at times. I was trying to get Matt ready to play again."

Saunders knew of the troubles Matt and his family were facing when the AFL folded, and he also knew one of the other guys he trained-Larry Wisdom, was the president of a large construction company in the area, and he might be able to help them.

I wanted to do everything I could to help them. I've got five kids myself, and I was a small business owner (at the time). I know when you have mouths to feed and you have this lean time, it's a stressful situation."

- Steve Saunders on helping Nagy

Steve wanted to set Matt and Larry up for a meeting.

"I wanted to do everything I could to help them," Saunders, who just last year was named the Director of Performance for the Baltimore Ravens, recalled. "I've got five kids myself, and I was a small business owner (at the time). I know when you have mouths to feed and you have this lean time, it's a stressful situation."

"I was in my mid-50s, so I wasn't exactly your NFL athlete, or retired athlete," Wisdom, who grew up in Chicago and was high school classmates at Marmion Academy with Childress, explained. "Steve came to me one day and mentioned Matt's name. He said, 'This is somebody you can mold into a future president of the company.'

"I felt like if I disappointed Steve by saying, 'No,' then the pain that would be caused [in training] afterwards would be terrible," Wisdom laughed. "Typically, the sessions were at 4:35 in the morning, and I was already feeling a good deal of pain."

Wisdom was the second-oldest of 10 kids in his family, and didn't have much growing up. He began working in the construction business as a laborer at the age of 19, and worked his way up to the Midwest Regional President of a multi-million-dollar company. He had moved to the Lancaster area in 2007, coming from Chicago, where his company was building 1,400 homes a year.

Much like Matt, Wisdom has had to work for everything he got in life.

Larry Wisdom (left), Matt Nagy, Steve Saunders (right) and two of Saunders' children

Larry Wisdom (left), Matt Nagy, Steve Saunders (right) and two of Saunders' children

photo courtesy of the Nagy family

Back then, it was a tough time to be in the real estate business, but Wisdom took the meeting with Matt anyways.

Matt had a real estate license-something he thought would be good to have in case he needed to supplement his income for his growing family.

Thanks to the introduction from Saunders, Matt and Larry met for dinner at Fenz restaurant in Lancaster.

"In terms of a first impression, I found him to be bright, earnest, genuine, and very authentic," Wisdom recalled of that meeting. "I found him to be at an interesting point in life. He had dreamed for a very long time to become an NFL quarterback, and he had come to a point that the chances of making that work at this point would have come at a great cost to his family."

For Matt, the issue was one of money-particularly going into a field that was heavily based on commission, which was a risk for a family with four kids under the age of six years old.

In order to do this, Matt needed a substantial base salary, and so, Wisdom asked what it'd take for him to feel comfortable.

You have three or four people in your life to which you're indebted. Larry stepped into my life and took care of my family during the recession, during the time when I lost football."

- Nagy on Larry Wisdom

Then, just like that, Wisdom gave it to him. He stepped up for them.

"It was a big decision because it's what was necessary to help Matt do this, and I was confident in myself that I would be able to help him," Wisdom explained. "I felt like the return would [be worth it]. I felt that the period of time from his first role in sales where he would be trained and developed - paying those hours – would be, unless I had misjudged the talent, returned in a 24-36-month period.

"It was a business decision based on his talent. It wasn't charity."

Within his first 45 days on the job after training, Matt confirmed what Wisdom saw in him by selling six homes. He was a natural, just as Saunders knew he would be when he asked Wisdom to take that initial meeting.

Matt, who no longer had to worry about how he was going to support his family, then began coaching high school football in the area. He was content, and it was because of Wisdom that the burden of how he was going to support them was lifted.

"You have three or four people in your life to which you're indebted," Matt explained. "Larry stepped into my life and took care of my family during the recession, during the time when I lost football.

"I was in a tough spot and he took care of us, I'll always be indebted to him."

Even though he was killing it as a realtor, football, and particularly, the NFL, were never too far away.

Soon, an opportunity would come calling.

Fifth Conversation

Veach and Nagy – "Out of Sight, Out of Mind"

The two high school sweethearts sat on the porch of what they once-thought to be their forever home in Pennsylvania for hours on this cool summer night in 2009.

Matt and Stacey Nagy

Matt and Stacey Nagy

photo courtesy of the Nagy family

Matt and Stacey were discussing all the pros and cons of what lie ahead.

A year earlier, through the recommendation of Veach, Andy Reid had offered Matt a position as a coaching intern for Eagles training camp. It was just after Matt's AFL season had ended, so the timing worked out. He could be there without any issue.

"At that time, I went there to see if I could open up some eyes throwing the ball or something," Matt explained of the first summer interning for the Eagles in 2008. "I went there with the mindset of a player."

"At that time, they had cut our numbers on how many players we could have, so having a camp quarterback was virtually impossible," Reid explained. "So, I said to Matt, 'Listen, come be an intern-coach. You can throw all of the drills.'

"He was also learning how to be a coach, too," Reid added. "That was important to him, and I'm going, 'This guy has really got a knack.'

"Veach was like his agent."

A year later, the same offer came-a coaching internship for training camp.

I'm no longer playing six months of football, with six months off. I'm working full-time at a new home construction company, and to ask your boss for three weeks off isn't going to go so well."

- Nagy on asking Wisdom to go to Eagles Training Camp

But the problem this time around is that it was right after the AFL had cancelled their season, and Wisdom had just brought Matt into his company a few months prior.

"I'm no longer playing six months of football, with six months off," Matt explained. "I'm working full-time at a new home construction company, and to ask your boss for three weeks off isn't going to go so well."

They had to think about how to best support their kids. There was plenty on the line.

"The big hurdle was disappointing [Wisdom] because we had taken on that job-that was supposed to be our future," Stacey added. "Then here we were talking about going back on our word."

Matt had told Wisdom that he was done with football, and Wisdom had invested time, resources, and money, into Matt's real estate career.

There was also no way of knowing how Wisdom would react for even asking the question of potentially taking the time off to go to camp, and more than that, this was just for an internship. There was no guarantee of a job at the end of this thing.

Then, there was a conversation with Veach that Matt recalls like it was yesterday.

"[Veach] told me, 'You never know where this can take you, and if you don't do it, out of sight, out of mind.'

"That always stuck with me," Matt recalled.

It was a decision for his football future-whether to continue to put his face out there with his hat in the ring-or pack it up and sell real estate and coach high school football for the rest of his life.

After hours of discussion on the porch that night-talking through everything-Matt and Stacey ultimately decided to ask Wisdom for the time off.

And for the second time in just a few months, Wisdom made a decision that would have a profound effect on the Nagy's journey. He granted Matt the time off, and Matt would have his job back after he returned home from training camp.

Nagy talking to Kevin Kolb

Nagy talking to Kevin Kolb

It turned out to be a pretty memorable camp for Matt, who made national headlines after an injury to Eagles' quarterback Kevin Kolb in a morning practice put the team in a tough spot.

It was just days before their final preseason game against the New England Patriots, and they were a quarterback short.

After grabbing lunch on campus just a few hours after Kolb went down, Matt returned to his dorm room and got a call from Veach, who said, "Coach [Reid] needs to see you. Hurry up. Get over here."

So, Matt quickly walked the three buildings over to the dorm where Reid was staying.

When he walked in the door, Reid, who had just finished a workout and was in a towel sitting on his sofa, proceeded to ask Matt if he had an agent, whether he was healthy, and how well he knew the playbook.

[Reid] goes alright, 'Well, I'm going to sign you, and you're going to play in our preseason game against the Patriots,'"

- Nagy on being signed with the Eagles

All of the answers were, 'Yes, and good,' and at that point, Matt sensed something big.

"[Reid] goes alright, 'Well, I'm going to sign you, and you're going to play in our preseason game against the Patriots,'" Matt smiled.


Within the course of just a few weeks, Matt went from debating the pros and cons of actually going to camp at all, and potentially risking his family's future financial means, to getting signed to an NFL contract-a dream he had for as long as he could remember.

"I was like a little kid in the candy store," Matt explained. "I was so excited. So, that whole night, I went and did my physical, I did all the blood work and all my tests."

The next day-Matt saw everything from a different angle.

"You sit on the outside of the table areas in the cafeteria for all the dinners. You sit on the outside for all the meetings," Matt said of coaches at training camp. "The next day now, I'm sitting on the inside at the cafeteria with the players. I'm sitting on the inside of the chairs with the players for meetings.

"It was just strange. I went out that next morning put cleats on for the first time in seven years. I was always playing on turf in the AFL."

Matt took reps at quarterback during the morning practice, and then as he was headed back out for the afternoon practice-walking out with running back Brian Westbrook, a rival from their college days-then-Eagles general manager Tom Heckert tapped Matt on the shoulder.

"Nags, the NFL nixed your contract," Matt recalled Heckert telling him. "You've got to go back and get the coaches shorts back on."

Just like that, it was over.

Now, there's a 'Nagy rule.' But that was it-right there, I knew he wanted to get into coaching, and he seemed wired the right way."

- Reid on Nagy signing to play for the Eagles

"It lasted not even 24 hours," Matt said. "I was back out that second practice in shorts as a coach, crushed, devastated. I just wanted one fourth quarter against the Patriots."

"I went on the biggest roller coaster of my entire life that day."

Matt was told part of the reason or nixing the contract had to do with the fact that the AFL wasn't completely folded yet, and the Eagles didn't want to get in a contract dispute considering Matt was still technically under contract with them.

"Now, there's a 'Nagy rule,'" Reid, who also explained the NFL didn't want a precedent being set of teams stashing players as coaches, laughed. "But that was it-right there, I knew he wanted to get into coaching, and he seemed wired the right way."

After camp had concluded, Matt went back to selling houses in Pennsylvania for Wisdom and waited for another opportunity-hoping the investment he made by taking off that time and the gamble he took would pay off.

Sixth Conversation

Veach gets promoted, Reid needs a replacement

After the 2009 season ended, Veach was promoted to the personnel side of the Eagles' organization as the Southeast Regional Scout, which meant Reid would be looking for Veach's replacement.

Before he made any decisions on the vacancy, Reid asked Veach for his thoughts.

"[Reid] just said, 'Oh by the way, now that you're moving over (to personnel), if you have any names for your old spot – I already have a list of guys – but if you have somebody that would be good, let me know'" Veach recalled.

Veach did have someone in mind, but he needed to make sure his old friend wasn't planning on selling houses for the rest of his life. It had only been a few months since he had been with them at camp.

Before I finished dialing Matt, I already knew the answer. I know what he's about, I know how much football means to him."

- Veach on calling Nagy about the position

"Before I finished dialing Matt, I already knew the answer," Veach said of calling to gauge Matt's interest in the position. "I know what he's about, I know how much football means to him."

Veach was right, and the position was Matt's if he wanted it.

He wasn't out of sight. He wasn't out of mind.

"Matt was selling a house the day I called him," Reid recalled.

When Matt saw the Philadelphia number calling, he knew what that meant. He got up from the kitchen table he was sitting at while going through closing papers for a couple purchasing a house, and he answered the call.

Reid offered Matt the position on a Tuesday, and after they spoke a little while, told him to talk it over with Stacey and get back to him.

After what Matt described as a "three-minute" conversation with her, he knew what he had to do next-call the man who picked his family up at a time they needed it most. The man who Stacey still calls "an angel" to their family.

Alex Smith, Andy Reid and Matt Nagy

Alex Smith, Andy Reid and Matt Nagy

Matt called Wisdom to explain what had been offered.

"I immediately realized that this call was a moment," Wisdom recalled of that conversation. "Matt was genuinely talking everything through with me, and when you think about that, that's not necessarily the world we live in today. I remember thinking that I wasn't happy to hear it, but I didn't tell him that. I just told him that he did the thing of integrity by picking up the phone and calling me.

There were so many emotions because I wasn't looking to ever become an NFL coach. Be at a high school for thirty years and ride off into the sunset-I was cool with it."

- Nagy on his decision to start coaching

"What I understood about this was that it was the chance of a lifetime for him, but he had no idea where this thing would lead."

Despite the huge deduction in salary between the two jobs, Matt and Stacey bet on the dream and he was in Philadelphia by Thursday.

"There were so many emotions because I wasn't looking to ever become an NFL coach," Matt explained of their decision. "Be at a high school for thirty years and ride off into the sunset-I was cool with it. When [Reid] called me that night and explained the position-there was a risk for us financially. I mean, it was a big time set back, but you've got to take one step back to take two steps forward."

Matt also saw this as the opportunity to prove something.

"I wasn't given the opportunity to play Division I football, and in my opinion, I felt I could," Matt added. "I wasn't given an opportunity to play in the NFL, and I felt I should have. I felt like a lot of that was lack of speed and lack of size. But with this deal with Coach Reid, when he offered that to me, I knew that the lack of speed and lack of size couldn't hold me back.

"I knew that with my heart, determination, loyalty and trust, that I could earn that from coach over time."

Matt did earn that trust from Reid, and it happened in just a short time.

Alex Smith, Matt Nagy and Andy Reid

Alex Smith, Matt Nagy and Andy Reid

Fast forward seven years and the former All-American quarterback has already worked his way to an offensive coordinator position-something that doesn't usually happen that quickly, and when talking to those close with him, Matt has earned everything he's getting.

"He's very much blue collar and he very much knows how to work for everything," Veach explained. "From Manheim Central to the University of Delaware and the AFL, truly nothing was ever given to him. Just like we do in scouting, you look for guys who are passionate, smart, and who love the game, and more so than anything, he's just a positive guy. That's a big deal because how you present yourself to your team, your peers, to your personnel staff, that's a big deal in this league.

"There's going to be more downs than ups in this business and a lot more struggles than successes. So, when you have a guy who is sharp, bright and articulate, but who also exudes positive energy, it's a really good combination, and I think it's what has made him so successful."

Matt Nagy (11) and Brett Veach (22) while playing at Delaware

Matt Nagy (11) and Brett Veach (22) while playing at Delaware

photo courtesy of UD Athletics Communications Photo

Two central Pennsylvania guys whose fathers were both prominent high school coaches, and who both ended up together at Delaware, and then again in the NFL, it's a story that doesn't happen often.

"We talk about it all the time," Veach explained. "We'll be at a game or in each other's office and we'll just talk about, 'Can you imagine however many years ago it was we were chucking it around at Delaware?'

"I just think we feel extremely grateful because we understand there are thousands of people who would instantly give up what they're doing to be in our positions," Veach added. "So, the fact that we're able to help each other – and listen, I had an opportunity to help Matt out back then, but he's been very helpful in my career, too.

"He's a smart offensive mind and, from a personnel standpoint, when I have a question about offensive schemes or quarterbacks, Matt has been a great resource for me, too."

The game has always come easily to Matt-even if many of the early opportunities didn't.

It's a trait and work ethic he's used to work with Alex Smith over the past four years-helping him set multiple franchise records, and it's also what he'll use to help develop Patrick Mahomes-one of the most intriguing young players in recent Chiefs' memory-for the future.

Alex Smith, Tyler Bray, Patrick Mahomes and Matt Nagy

Alex Smith, Tyler Bray, Patrick Mahomes and Matt Nagy

In the end, it's a life that's been destined for this course since his father first saw him spin that ball around his back to avoid a defender. It was a natural fit.

And while Matt has given everything he has to the game that now helps support his family, the truth is all of it has only been possible because of Stacey.

"She's been the one who has kept this whole thing together," Matt explained of his high school sweetheart, who held things down as he was always on the road. "She's been there from the start, and not a lot of people can say that."

It's a complete family atmosphere. Everybody is so nice and warm and welcoming."

- Stacey on the Kansas City community

A family that made decisions many wouldn't have made are now reaping the rewards of those gambles.

It's a journey that a few years ago brought them to Kansas City, where Bill has since moved to be closer to his grandkids, and where Matt's reunited with an old friend in Veach.

It's also where their family's passion for the game is understood by a fan base that shares a similar sentiment.

"It's a complete family atmosphere," Stacey explained of the Kansas City community. "Everybody is so nice and warm and welcoming. I was shocked when we first moved here because everyone was still always wearing red-despite all the losses they had in the years before we got here.

"It just felt like everybody was joined to the same cause. It really felt like home pretty quickly."

"The fans, the people, the community here-it's real," Matt explained. "They're in it just like we are."

After all, it's always been more than just a game to their family.

The Nagy family

The Nagy family

photo courtesy of the Nagy family