Hail to the Chief: Former Baron star, now NFL offensive coordinator for KC, speaks at banquet

By on May 31, 2017
Former Manheim Central star Matt Nagy, who is currently serving as the offensive coordinator for the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs, shares a story while speaking at the Manheim Touchdown Club’s banquet last Friday night.

Matt Nagy, back in Lancaster County for last Friday’s Manheim Touchdown Club banquet, marveled more than once about the passage of time.

About where he’s been, and where he hopes to go.

Once Manheim Central’s quarterback and now the Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive coordinator, he said during his speech to the crowd at Spooky Nook that he hopes one day to become an NFL head coach. He was cheered for that, and former Barons coach Mike Williams looked on proudly.

“He had chills,” Williams said a few days later. “So did I. I think he’s gonna do it.”

Williams, who retired in 2014 after 34 years as Central’s head man, couldn’t resist sticking the needle in when asked about Nagy’s aspirations.

“We joke about this,” he said. “He was always a guy who knew more than the coach did.”

The 39-year-old Nagy, a ‘96 Central grad, didn’t dispute that characterization when he met with reporters before the banquet. He admitted that even in junior high he thought he “could do no wrong,” and recalled in particular a run-in with Williams when he was a sophomore backup, and asked in practice to run the two-minute drill.

“He got on me a little bit, and I fired back at him,” Nagy said.

That helped no one.

“I went in the tank and I was a mental midget, so it wasn’t good,” he said.

To hear Williams tell it, such confrontations happened “more than once.” But in time both men learned. Nagy learned to keep a lid on his emotions, while Williams learned that a one-size-fits-all approach to coaching doesn’t necessarily work.

“You deal with different kids in different ways,” he said. “With him it was a little relaxed. It took me a while to get to that point.”

It’s a conclusion Nagy has reached over time as well.

“It taught me a lesson now as a coach, that you treat everybody the same,” he said, “but at the same time everybody handles criticism and coaching certain ways. You have to balance that.”

He was a two-year starter for the Barons, and as a junior came within a late end-zone interception of engineering an upset of mighty Berwick in the 1994 PIAA Eastern final. While Central finally won its elusive state title in 2003, that ‘94 team, featuring not only Nagy but future Pittsburgh Steelers fullback Dan Kreider, was arguably the finest in school history.

“I can’t say that,” Williams said. “Too many other players might be mad.”

Nagy went on to star at Delaware, and spent six years playing in the Arena League. It was through former Blue Hens wide receiver Brett Veach that he made the acquaintance of then-Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid in 2008, and Nagy worked as a coaching intern during the Birds’ training camps that summer and the following one.

He was promoted to coaches’ assistant in 2010 —”staying up at 2 in the morning, putting together playbooks and typing stuff,” he said — then spent two years as an offensive quality control coach.

Reid was fired after the ‘12 season but quickly resurfaced with the Chiefs. Nagy came along with him, serving as quarterbacks coach from 2013-15 before sharing the offensive coordinator’s job with Brad Childress last season, when Kansas City went 12-4 and reached the playoffs for the third time in four seasons under Reid.

In February Childress was promoted to assistant head coach, leaving Nagy the sole coordinator.

He enjoys working with Reid, who he called “a progressive coach” who exhibits “zero ego.”

“There’s tough love, but it’s all because he cares,” Nagy said. “He genuinely cares about me as a person.”

And Nagy believes that because of his relative youth, he can connect with players more readily than older coaches might. With guys like veteran quarterback Alex Smith, who is six years younger, and, Nagy hopes, rookie QB Pat Mahomes II, who the Chiefs traded up to take at No. 10 overall in last month’s draft.

“I understand what they’re going through,” Nagy said, “because I just went through it.”

He understands, for one thing, that one size doesn’t necessarily fit all when it comes to coaching. Learned that a long time ago, in fact.

 

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