Matt Patricia will stand in front of 100 or so players, coaches and support staff Monday to address the group for the first time as their head coach when the Detroit Lions begin their offseason training program in Allen Park.
It's a moment 20 years in the making for Patricia, ever since the day he gave up a lucrative engineering job to be an assistant coach at Amherst College. It's a first message Patricia admitted at the annual meetings last month he's thought a lot about.
"I think it's just going to be who I am and what the team should be," Patricia said of what that first message to his team will be. "I think it's important for them to understand who I am as a person and how I feel about this game and how passionate I am about this game.
"How much I believe in the relationship part of this game. This is family. That will hopefully all be conveyed through my conversation with them the first time I get a chance to talk to them."
Patricia said some of the traits he'll talk to them about wanting to see from a football perspective is a group of players who play smart, tough and fundamentally sound football. He's hoping to build a foundation on those principles and watch them manifest throughout the season.
But back to the family part of his message for a moment. Patricia's talked on multiple occasions about how the building of personal relationships is something vitally important to him.
Talking with several of the players who signed with the Lions in free agency this offseason, it's clear that Patricia's message to them and the culture he's talked about creating in Detroit was a selling point for a lot of them.
"I'm excited to play for coach Patricia," veteran linebacker Devon Kennard said in a conference call after signing with the Lions. "I have a great first impression (of him). Great guy. Great energy. He has the right mentality, so I'm excited."
Patricia's relationship with veteran running back LeGarrette Blount in New England was a big reason Blount decided to sign with the Lions.
Lions general manager Bob Quinn told beat reporters at the annual meetings that Patricia's history of success on the field was certainly an asset in free agency, but so was his personality.
"I think when the players sit down and talk to Matt, they get a real connection with him very early on," Quinn said. "As you guys have gotten to know him a little bit, he's a very personable guy. You sit down, and he tells you what he envisions the team's going to be like this year, next year, and the future and then your role.
"Guys get excited. Guys watch the Patriots have won a lot of games over the years. So, I think guys kind of see what he's done with players and say, 'I can do that, or I can do that better.' So, I think it's helped."
During the season, the players and the coaches typically spend more time with one another than they do their own families. Patricia wants a team that works hard on the field and in the meeting and film rooms, but he also wants a team that feels like they're part of a family with a common goal.
"I was raised in an Italian household, so one phone call and it's 30 people at a birthday party," Patricia said. "I enjoy that atmosphere. That's the way to me that – in addition to teaching – I left engineering to get back into football because I just think this is the one game that really preaches that. Preaches kind of that unity that team that family atmosphere.
"I've just always found that the more I invest in people and people invest in me, the harder I think you work for them and the harder they work for you. That's important to me. Again, I enjoy those relationships a lot. They are very important to me. I definitely want to have people around me that are family."