Matt Patricia is the head coach of the Detroit Lions and took the job prior to the 2018 NFL season. The bearded leader is one of the most identifiable figures in football, but there is plenty more to know about him personally and professionally which helps him to stand out from most of his colleagues.
Born in Sherrill, New York, Patricia’s rise from an average Joe to one of the most interesting minds in the league has been one that many fans can both appreciate and admire thanks to how it has happened and the steps the coach has taken to become who he is today.
Here’s what you need to know about Matt Patricia.
1. Matt Patricia Is Actually a Rocket Scientist
After attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, Patricia earned a B.S. in Aeronautical Engineering in 1996 and appeared all set for a career in that field. In fact, Patricia was even described as being on track to become a game-changer at his chosen craft had he stuck it out, according to a piece by Tim Rohan of Sports Illustrated:
“Patricia spent his first two years out of college working at Hoffman Air & Filtration, where he helped sales reps supply industrial blowers to wastewater plants. The sales reps loved him, called him brilliant, and so did his colleagues. He convinced them to use computers and input data in spreadsheets, and it streamlined Hoffman’s entire ordering process. The market for selling blowers was competitive, says Jim Ward, Patricia’s boss at the time, and the new computer system allowed them to “focus more on the strategic side of the sale. It gave us more time to think: What more can we do to position our products better?” Patricia became a rising star in the engineering world. General Electric and General Dynamics showed interest in him, according to his father, Ed. Westinghouse reportedly offered him a job maintaining nuclear subs and aircraft carriers, for a salary close to six figures.”
In spite of his obvious talents, outside interest in his engineering services and good money, Patricia simply couldn’t forget his love of football and was quickly looking for a way back in. He had been an offensive lineman while at RPI and continued to serve as a graduate assistant there in 1996, keeping his eye on the game even in spite of his talents and smarts in engineering.
2. Passion Led Patricia Back Into Football
Not ready to kiss football goodbye forever, Patricia was looking for a football job a few years after college and became the defensive line coach for Amherst College from 1999-2000, making around $10,000 a year. That was far less money than he would have made utilizing his college degree in his field. From Amherst, Patricia went on to accept a role with Syracuse University as a graduate assistant where he worked from 2001-2003 under head coach Paul Pasqualoni.
Why the abrupt change from engineering? Specifically, Patricia noted in a piece by ESPN’s Mike Reiss that for him, coaching wasn’t about making money, but the personal reward. He was looking for a career that he could be passionate about and that passion caught the attention of plenty of folks along the way, who noted he was right for the game.
Safe to say Patricia made the right decision to jump back into football given his love for the game and where it would take him in the future. Though he essentially started as a low-level intern for a small college, the rise to prominence would happen steadily over time.
3. Patricia Earned Respect With the New England Patriots Over a Decade
After applying for a job with the New England Patriots in 2004, Patricia first encountered Bill Belichick, the team’s legendary coach. Through an intensive interview process with the coach, Patricia eventually landed on the team as an offensive assistant, but it wasn’t easy. Patricia described the Belichick interview as the toughest he’s ever had to Sports Illustrated, which obviously included several engineering gigs he had applied for out of college. Belichick put Patricia through a serious mental test in order to earn his Patriots gig.
When he landed the job, Patricia toiled away with the Patriots serving as an assistant offensive line coach in 2005. As the team’s linebacker coach from 2006-2010, though, he made his biggest waves on defense, working with an impressive veteran group of Mike Vrabel, Junior Seau and Tedy Bruschi in a record-breaking 16-0 regular season in 2007. Often working long hours, the coach was said to sleep overnight in his Foxborough office while crafting game plans, so much so that his wife bought him a mattress for the facility.
The hard work paid off. After a stop as the team’s safeties coach in 2011, Patricia would be tabbed as Belichick’s defensive coordinator in 2012, a post he would hold until 2017 when he left to become coach of the Lions. He won three Super Bowl titles with the Patriots during that span. Literally, Patricia went from a low-level assistant to one of Belichick’s most revered and accomplished assistant coaches.
4. Matt Patricia’s Famous Beard is Actually a Military Tribute
Known for his stark black beard which seems to grow bushier by the year, Patricia’s appearance might seem unkempt and messy to the average fan’s eye. There’s much more to the story on the look, though. It’s actually a tribute to the coach’s friends serving in the military. As Patricia explained to Justin Rogers of the Detroit Free Press, the beard is a noticeable nod to folks that serve:
“The quick story on the beard is, honestly, 2011 I believe it was, I have a lot of buddies who are in the military, that have gone overseas, were overseas that year,” Patricia said. “I got to see a couple of them before they left and they were usually in full beard, obviously doing great things to protect our country and just great Americans. It’s kind of just one of those deals where I said, ‘Well, I’m not shaving till you get back. So when you get to see us on TV, or see me on TV, know that I’m thinking about you.”
Typically, Patricia lets the beard grow out during the NFL season when he’s featured on television, then cleans it up for the offseason. The longer his team plays into January or February, the longer the beard grows. The coach has joked that the annual trimming of the beard helps it appear he has lost weight over the offseason.
5. Patricia Has a Large Young Family and a Taste for Italian Food
Patricia is married to his wife Raina, whom he wed in 2009 in Aruba. They have three children together, sons Dominic and Dante and a daughter Giamina. When Patricia was coaching in New England, the family lived in Foxboro, Massachusetts. They have since relocated to the Detroit area.
The coach’s taste is obviously decidedly Italian given his heritage, as he is said to favor meatball pizza and gnocchi. When he’s back in his hometown of Sherril, New York, Patricia’s restaurant of choice is Sherrill New York Style Pizzeria. He is said to enjoy pizza and jalapeno poppers best from the restaurant.
At one point early in his coaching career, the coach owned a Saint Bernard as a pet, and the dog was said by ESPN to scare some of his fellow assistant coaches he worked with at the time. It’s unclear if Patricia has any pets now since his move to Detroit, or if he has taken up enjoying Detroit style pizza in addition to his love for New York-style pie.