Nick Sirianni remembers growing up, watching his father Fran’s former athletes visit the family house in Jamestown, New York, long after they graduated.
If those former athletes were in town, they visited because of the connection they formed with Sirianni’s dad. Those are formative memories for Sirianni.
“I always thought that was so cool,” he said on Thursday.
So it’s no wonder that connecting with his players has always been very important to Sirianni. When he took over as the Eagles’ head coach this season, there’s a reason he stressed connecting as his first core value.
And it's why words from Jalen Reagor this week meant so much to the Eagles’ first-year head coach.
The embattled receiver on Wednesday talked about some of his struggles in his second NFL season but it’s clear the connection he feels with his head coach is a powerful one.
“Even when the fans were booing me, [Sirianni] was very upset about it,” Reagor said. “When I dropped the pass against New York, he was the first person to walk up to me. He walked me through the tunnel. He has our back and I believe he has our back.”
Sirianni, 40, admitted that when he first got to the NFL he wondered if he’d be able to forge the same types of relationships with players he had while coaching in college at Mount Union and IUP.
It didn’t take long for him to realize he could.
“That’s really important to me that [Reagor] said that,” Sirianni said. “I get attached to these guys because it’s a family. Think about the ups and downs that you go through with your family throughout a year. Obviously, I’ve only been with these guys coming up on a year now, but you go through so many things. That’s the same things that you go through with a football team. You go through all these ups and downs and through that, you develop these connections if you work at it.”
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Sirianni has done a lot of good things in his first year as head coach but getting his team through a rough early stretch with a 2-5 record is at the top of his list of accomplishments.
That probably doesn’t happen if his players don’t believe in him. And that probably doesn’t happen if they don’t trust him. For Sirianni, it all comes down to long-lasting relationships.
“That means a lot to me that [Reagor] recognizes that,” Sirianni said. “That means a lot to me that me and him are tight because I’m tight from when I played with former coaches that I had. I think that’s always a great feeling to have in 15 years from now that I’m still going to text these guys.
“Or even relationships that I coached in college, I’m still texting these guys and talking to them and having that relationship because that means a lot to me and I think I realized that a long time ago because I grew up as the son of a football coach and a track coach and saw the relationships he had with his players. That means an awful lot.”