BY JEFF FALK
PHOTOS COURTESY OF INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Linda Reich (nee Fick) is a native of Lebanon and a graduate of Cedar Crest High School. Her husband, who just happens to be a football coach, is also from Lebanon and a graduate of Cedar Crest.
Depending on how one defines it, Linda Reich may or may not be a ‘football widow’. What she definitely is, is the head coach of her husband’s support system.
Quite simply, Frank Reich, Jr. couldn’t do the things he does, or couldn’t have ascended to the top of his profession without an extremely strong support system.
“Not in the way most people would categorize it,” said Linda Reich of the ‘football widow’ moniker. “Frank and I have always been very much of a team. We both have our identities. We both are our own people. We respect each other’s roles. I have very much settled into being a partner and a teammate.
“I don’t perceive myself as a great woman,” continued Linda Reich. “I see myself as a partner doing the things I’m supposed to be doing in life. I just enjoy being a partner with my husband. We just do the right things.”
On February 11th, Frank Reich signed a five-year deal to become the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. In so doing, he became the first man from Lebanon County to become an NFL head coach.
Exactly a week earlier, F. Reich, then an offensive coordinator, helped the Philadelphia Eagles win Super Bowl LII by defeating the New England Patriots 41-33.
“I think the best description is that it’s been a wonderful whirlwind,” said Linda. “It has been an incredible ride. We’ve been able to enjoy it together. Everyone in the family has been excited. Our life is an audible. We’re pretty flexible.
“There’s no question that with the position (being the wife of an NFL head coach) comes responsibility,” Linda continued. “It certainly plays into things. Because we’ve been in this business a long time, I’ve been very prayerful about what to get involved in. There are a lot of possibilities out there. What is my passion? What does the community need? I’m looking forward to working with the (family that owns the Colts) Irsays. I’m looking forward to working in the community.”
Linda and Frank Reich are childhood sweethearts. She was a cheerleader and he was a quarterback.
They’ve been married for 32 years. They have three adult daughters, Lia, 28, Aviry, 26, and Hannah, 22.
“Certainly not,” said L. Reich, when asked if she fully understood what she was getting herself into when she first got married. “No one anticipates the ride we’ve been on. But it’s been an exciting adventure.
“Going full circle and back to the beginning, we’re a partnership,” added L. Reich. “He can’t play my role and I can’t play his role. It’s mutual respect. It’s a reciprocity that goes both ways, and our children support us as well.”
The competitive world of NFL football is extremely stressful. It demands hard work and long hours. But Linda’s role goes way beyond simply ‘holding down the fort.’
“It’s really challenging to quantify that,” said Linda of the number of hours her husband works. “He’s a very diligent worker. He does everything with excellence. It’s long and hard and quite a commitment, but it’s all worth it. During the playoffs, he would leave at 5:30 (a.m.) and get home at 11:30 (p.m.), every single day. It is a commitment and a lifestyle. But it’s not anything I begrudge.
“We’ve gotten into a groove as much as we can, just to get a respite when things are crazy,” Linda added. “There’s a lot of pulls, a lot of expectations. When there is a window, we just enjoy getting away.”
The long hours and the time apart is just part of the deal. And in some ways, neither wife or husband sees it as work.
“I don’t really worry about him working too much,” said L. Reich. “It’s a privilege and honor to be one of 32 (head coaches in the NFL). When one is passionate about it and sees it as a calling, it’s not categorized as work.”
When Frank is home, the conversation is not all about football – not that Linda can’t hold her own in that particular area. She is a sounding board, a person to bounce ideas off, a voice of reason removed from the day-to-day inner workings.
“It’s interesting,” said Linda. “I love the game. It’s been part of our life. I enjoy discussing the game with him and he loves discussing the game with me. It’s a fun part of our life. Everyone knows, whether I’m watching the game at home or at the stadium, ‘Don’t talk to me.’ I’m not a fan. I’m watching every play.
“I would describe it more as this, ‘There’s always dialogue’,” continued Linda. “My husband is tremendously excellent at what he does. We talk about guidance and wisdom and prayer. My role is more on the wisdom end. That’s what we do in a partnership.”
During his 14 years of playing days from the mid 1980s to the late 1990s, Frank Reich was a quarterback for the Buffalo Bills, the Carolina Panthers, the New York Jets and the Detroit Lions. As a coach for the past ten years, F. Reich was an assistant in Indianapolis, Arizona, San Diego and finally Philadelphia.
The Reichs have moved all over the country, countless times.
“Oh my gosh,” said L. Reich. “Over the many years, our moves haven’t always been because of career change. Some have been for choice or for other reasons. It’s been a fair amount. At least over 20, maybe more than that. Some have been short-term moves. We have become very flexible.
“Certainly there have been a number of challenges,” L. Reich added. “Just navigating transition. For me, in all of these years of transition, I look at it as an opportunity. Every time we move it’s a great challenge. In any transition, there’s always going to be inconveniences, but also opportunities and adventures. I just think it’s a blessing and an opportunity. We have friends all across the country. Life is about people for Frank and I.”
Between Frank’s playing days and coaching days, there existed a period of uncertainty for the Reichs. At that time, they chose to focus on the upbringing of their daughters.
But deep down in Frank’s heart, he always wanted to be a coach.
“After playing in the NFL ended, we looked at each other and said, ‘What is life going to look like?’,” said Linda. “We prayed about what was next. Frank always wanted to coach. But family is very important to us. He got a lot of counsel from a lot of people about what life looks like after football.
“We wanted to pour ourselves into our children’s lives at a rudimentary level,” Linda continued. “The catalyst was to invest into their lives. We wouldn’t have done it any other way. It was worth everything.
“When he was playing, he was going into seminary and getting his Masters of Divinity. It wasn’t like he was sitting around getting under my skin. Frank has never been a complacent person. He is not a sit-around person.”