BY JEFF FALK
SAN DIEGO PHOTOS BY MIKE NOWAK/SAN DIEGO
Frank Reich has always been Lebanon County’s poster child for ‘local boy making good’.
But no matter where he’s gone, or how far away he’s been, Reich’s hometown has always been near to his heart. At no other time in his professional life, has Reich been as close to his Lebanon roots as he is right now.
In many ways, Reich came home in January when he was hired as the Philadelphia Eagles’ offensive coordinator. But in another way, Reich will be coming home next week when he returns to Lebanon County to lend a hand at a local Christian school’s fundraiser.
The 1980 graduate of Cedar Crest High School will be the keynote speaker when he makes a personal appearance at New Covenant Christian School’s ‘An Evening with Frank Reich’, on Friday, May 6 at 7 p.m., at Lebanon Evangelical Free Church in Jonestown. The next night, May 7th, Reich will headline New Covenant’s annual fundraising banquet at the Holiday Inn in Grantville.
The appearances will mark the first time Reich has graced Lebanon County soil since attending his father, Frank Sr.’s funeral more than a year ago.
“If anything positive comes from it, it’s been forged in battle,” said Reich, who is deeply religious. “A lot of it comes from family. It’s the way we roll. It’s not sports, it’s family. But it’s a team effort. As far as the speaking goes, given the platform sports has provided, I like to teach and encourage. I learned that from my parents (Frank and Pat Reich). It’s not about just presenting material. It’s about helping people and encouraging people.
“It’s always great to come back to Lebanon,” continued Reich. “I’ve always enjoyed my visits. This time it’s a little different. Coming back to speak adds a little different element.”
Hearing Reich speak will be a real treat. The University of Maryland graduate is articulate, grounded, reflective, worldly and witty.
Friday’s event will feature an extended question-and-answer session with Reich.
“To me, it’s about a quote I’ve had on my desk since 1985,” said Reich, who’s been a motivational speaker for decades. ” ‘No man becomes suddenly different from habits and cherished thoughts.’ A lot of the message is: How do we develop the right habits, personally and professionally? We all face major challenges, all the time. And having cherished thoughts is part of the equation.”
Reich spoke to Lebanon Sports Buzz during an exclusive interview on Thursday afternoon, hours before the start of the NFL’s annual player-entry draft. His new employer – the Eagles – recently traded a bunch of subsequent selections for the right to move up to the second overall pick.
Philadelphia was expected to select either California quarterback Jared Goff or North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz.
“It’s very exciting. The prospect of working with any young player is exciting, especially with me and the quarterback position,” said Reich, who engineered two of the greatest comebacks that big-time football has ever seen. “The quarterbacks who are in discussion are great guys to work with. I really credit the organization for putting us in position to have the opportunity to get one of those guys.
“I think one of the key adjustments they’ll have to make is trying not to do too much, too fast,” Reich continued. “I don’t want to set unrealistic expectations. This is the kind of pick where you’re expecting a difference-maker. That’s a lot of pressure. The key is to come in and be yourself. You want to be planted in good soil, and you want your roots to grow. You want to make sure you’re getting the proper nourishment. If you’re committed to a daily routine and the process, things will work themselves out.”
There were a number of stars which had to align to bring Reich back, close to home. Sometimes things work out the way they are meant to.
On Janurary 4th, Reich was fired by the San Diego Chargers, following two disappointing seasons as the club’s offensive coordinator. But two weeks later, Reich landed on his feet, after friend and colleague Doug Pederson was named Philadelphia’s new head coach.
From 2008 to 2012, Reich served as an offensive position coach in Indianapolis, and then Arizona.
“This is the NFL. It’s a tough business,” said Reich, who resides in Wayne, PA. “I was confident and hopeful I would get another opportunity, another job. We had a bad year in San Diego.That’s the way it is in the NFL. Heads are going to roll. So you move on. With the passing game, I think people around the league knew what we were doing. But what made it exciting for me was connecting with Doug (Pederson).
“In this business, like most businesses, it’s about who you work with,” Reich added. “Doug is a class act, through and through. I’ve always know that, but working with him on a daily basis has just reinforced that. I have a lot of respect for this organization, from the top down.
“Another element is being back home. Unfortunately for me, I’m a little bit late. It would’ve been a dream of mine to be in Philadelphia when my parents were still here. But it’s been great. We’re an hour and ten minutes, door to door, from where we live to Lebanon.”
Reich played in the NFL for 12 seasons, from 1985 to 1998, for Buffalo, Carolina, the New York Jets and Detroit. Reich played in four Super Bowls with Buffalo.
His new job as Philadelphia’s offensive coordinator is just the latest in Reich’s growing list of career accomplishments in football.
“It’s a great opportunity,” said Reich, who was taken with the 57th overall selection in the 1985 NFL draft. “I just feel like we’re going to have every opportunity, that the organization is giving us all the resources to build a championship team. This franchise has been very successful for a very long time. Hopefully this draft is a step in the right direction. But one pick does not make a successful draft.
“We have a head coach (Pederson) who has been very successful as an offensive coordinator,” continued Reich. “We’re installing the Kansas City offense, and it’s been very exciting. Doug is leading the way. It’s his offense. You just feel fortunate to be part of something like that. It’s fun working for great people. When I look at the staff he has in place, I don’t think it could be any better. It would be hard to have a better coach, at any position.”