VERONA — Detroit Lions pro football head coach Matt Patricia, a Vernon-Verona-Sherrill High School alumnus, surprised students Friday morning when he returned to his alma mater to tour new facilities and visit with students and staff, the VVS district said.
Patricia, previously the New England Patriots’ defensive coordinator before becoming the Lions’ coach in 2018, spoke to students in the gymnasium where he played trumpet “right there, in that very center court circle.”
He also described his pathway to the NFL, starting with a $150,000 engineering job that he turned down to coach for $5, the VVS district noted. Patricia recalled, “I called my mom and said, ‘I got the job… but I’m not going to take it, I’m going to go coach.’ There was dead silence on the other end of the line.”
Patricia further recounted how he kept focus on his dreams while in a series of collegiate coaching positions paying less than $10,000. He had to sell his car and cash in his 401K to continue coaching, at one point riding his bike back-and-forth to work.
“Sometimes I hoped that a car would hit me, so maybe that person would drive me to work,” he remarked, to laughter.
When Patricia eventually received a call to work for the Patriots, he took a series of jobs and moved up to become defensive coordinator. “Everyone on that team worked very hard at their job,” he observed. He was defensive coordinator for two Patriots’ Super Bowl champions in the 2014 and 2016 seasons.
Patricia stressed the importance of hard work and building a skill set, as he pointed out that people who rose on the accomplishments of others were quickly found out. He ended his speech talking about his time in Detroit and how blessed he was to have the position. “People told me I would never make it to the NFL,” he said, “but if I was going to bet on anybody it was going to be me.”
At the conclusion of his comments, varsity football coach Gary Oliver and the varsity captains presented Patricia with a VVS helmet, which he said he would put in his office, the school district said. Superintendent Martha Group then presented him with a bag full of VVS items, including VVS FFA maple syrup.
VVS senior Gavin Miller was inspired by the presentation. “That was the most powerful speech I’ve ever heard,” he said, “It just makes me think that I should follow my passion and never say I can’t do something. That was amazing — and when he does win a Super Bowl, I’ll be able to say he went to my school and I got a picture with him.”
Group was proud to introduce Patricia to the students and faculty.
“We were honored to be able to welcome him back to his alma mater. His talk resonated very well among our student and faculty,” she commented. “He illustrated for us all the importance of academics, character, work ethic and pursuing your passion, and we are very pleased that he was able to take time out of his very busy schedule to speak with our students. I can’t say enough about his reception to the students and how gracious he was in spending time with individual students for photographs and interactions. We look forward to seeing him again in the future.”