Luke Weaver, a top student who graduated from Manheim Central High School in Pennsylvania this summer, has found that applying for college scholarships has generally been an impersonal process.
Weaver, however, was thrilled to discover an exception to that rule this spring that involved participating in a 30-minute video interview with Bears coach Matt Nagy, his wife, Stacey, and their four sons.
Matt and Stacey both attended Manheim Central and decided earlier this year to provide college scholarships for students at their alma mater. Weaver earned a Nagy Family Be You Scholarship due to his impressive credentials and the impression he made on the Nagys during his video interview.
"It was fantastic to be able to FaceTime them because, at least in my experience, when you're applying for scholarships, a lot of times the application is very anonymous," Weaver said. "Although a large part of the applications are, 'tell us about yourself,' it still remains a very out-of-touch process.
"So being able to FaceTime with coach Nagy and being able to [virtually] meet his family and talk to them, it was just an amazing experience because all of a sudden some of the most impersonal parts became personal. It was a very personal experience and I absolutely loved it."
Matt and Stacey considered multiple ways of giving back to Manheim High before ultimately deciding to provide the scholarships.
"We took some advice from some people," said the Bears coach. "just talked it through and that was what we thought as a family would have the biggest impact."
The Nagys intended to present scholarships to one boy and one girl. But after interviewing three boys and two girls, Matt and Stacey couldn't differentiate between the two girls, Maddy Barbush and Alexis Hosler, so both received scholarships. The Nagys donated a total of $23,500 for the three Be You scholarships, with some funds also going toward $1,000 scholarships provided by the Manheim Touchdown Club.
Weaver plans to begin attending Lehigh University in the fall. At Manheim Central, he was an honor roll student who served as Student Council president and National English Honor Society co-president. He also was a member of the swim team all four years of high school, participated in cross country and served as a coding enrichment teacher and calculus tutor.
"I'm incredibly grateful," Weaver said of receiving the scholarship. "It's going to help me in so many ways. College can be an extremely stressful time for anyone really, so being able to have some financial help is definitely both a humbling experience and an experience that makes you very grateful."
Barbush played field hockey all four years of high school and plans to continue playing the sport at East Stroudsburg University. She also played on Manheim's softball team, serving as team captain and being named offensive MVP in 2018. In addition, Barbush was an honor roll student, served on Student Council and has been active in her community through her youth group at Victory Student Ministries.
Like Weaver, Barbush enjoyed participating in the video interview with the Nagy family.
"It was a real cool opportunity," she said. "Being able to be myself in front of them, it was just awesome and it was an amazing atmosphere they created. I loved how they had their whole family there."
Hosler played field hockey all four years of high school and was named first-team Class AA all-state as a senior. She plans on continuing her field hockey career when she begins attending Liberty University in the fall. At Manheim, Hosler also served as Student Council class treasurer, participated on the track and field team and earned over a 3.5 accumulative grade-point average.
The five finalists for the Nagy Family Be You scholarships were chosen by the Manheim Touchdown Club. The video interviews were conducted in May and the three winners were selected in June.
"The criteria for us was just listening to their life story," Nagy said, "where they came from, how they persevered, what kind of teammate and player they were with their coaches, what did they do off the field and did they have any obstacles they had to endure."
Nagy grew up in Manheim, a small town in southeastern Pennsylvania that had a population of 4,858 in the 2010 census. He played quarterback at the University of Delaware and in the Arena Football League in New York, Charlotte, Atlanta and Columbus. His NFL coaching career has since taken him to Philadelphia, Kansas City and now Chicago. But Manheim will always hold a special place in his heart.
"Really since I got out of college in 2001, it's been a journey for myself and Stacey," Nagy said. "We get to see a lot of beautiful cities and a lot of beautiful people. But it's always nice to go home. There's just that really cool comfortable feeling that you have of what you remember, whether it's the smell of the fresh air, the little restaurants you used to go to and then the people, of course, is probably the most important part, seeing all the people that help made you who you are today.
"So there's no better way to be able to give back right now than to our hometown as an appreciation and a thank you to everybody and be able to help some out."
Hosler appreciates that Nagy wanted to give back to his hometown.
"Even though he doesn't live in Manheim, he will always be a part of Manheim," she said. "I asked him what made him want to give this scholarship out and he said, 'I just wanted to give back to my hometown what they gave to me.'"
Nagy's four sons wanted to be involved in the video interviews with the scholarship candidates, and that was just fine with the Bears coach. In fact, he felt it was appropriate given that his oldest son, Brayden, was responsible for creating the "Be You" mantra that Nagy has implemented with the Bears. It was the advice that Brayden gave his dad in January 2018 when Nagy interviewed for the Bears' head-coaching job.
"The whole 'Be You' part of it is significant for us," Nagy said. "That was the advice Brayden gave me before the biggest interview of my life, was to 'be you' and if you're just yourself you'll get the job. I took his advice. At the time, he was 13 years old giving me that advice. It made it really simple and I've followed that advice since then."
Nagy expressed the same words of wisdom to the winners of the Be You scholarships.
"We wanted to remind them how important it is that they did well in the interview and that they're going to do well in the future just by being themselves," Nagy said. "Don't try to be somebody different. Don't try to act different when you have a certain status given to you. Just be the same person that got you to where you're at right now."
The message resonated with Hosler.
"The [scholarship] money is very helpful, but it's not just about that," she said. "It was being able to talk to him and his family, and hearing his 'Be You' story was really amazing.
"The advice that he and his wife gave me was really good advice for me to carry into college. They said that as a freshman, don't make up excuses because you're there for a reason and you're there to compete, so just know that you can still dominate, even as a freshman."
Throughout the scholarship process, Nagy worked closely with his former high school football coach. Mike Williams served in that role at Manheim from 1981-2014 and remains an assistant coach at the school. As a player, Nagy quarterbacked Manheim to the state semifinals in each of his final two years and was named Lancaster County MVP as a senior.
Nagy returned to Manheim in May 2019 to serve as guest speaker at the school's annual awards banquet. The event wasn't held this year due to COVID-19, but that didn't stop the Bears coach from giving back to his hometown.
Moving forward, Nagy intends to give away scholarships to Manheim Central graduating seniors again next year and hopes to have this year's winners participate in the selection process.
"Everybody in town loves Matt," Williams said. "He has a lot of friends back here in Manheim. It's very special for him and the Bears to be involved in this. We think it's great. Our whole community thinks it's great."