Joe Judge’s Philly homecoming will feature own Giants cheering section

Joe Judge’s Philly homecoming will feature own Giants cheering section

They were always planning to go to the game. But this season, little is guaranteed and nothing can be assumed.

A few of Joe Judge’s buddies started making inquiries a while back. Tickets are not easy to come by for Thursday night’s Giants-Eagles game at Lincoln Financial Field, where only 7,500 fans will be allowed in amid COVID-19 restrictions. They found tickets, priced at $250 apiece, way upstairs, but worth the cost. It is not every day you get to see your high-school friend return to his hometown as the head coach of an NFL team.

The transaction never came to be. Joe Judge made sure of that.

“He said, ‘Why don’t I get them for you instead of going through some random person?’ ’’ Frank Panariello told The Post from Philadelphia. “He said, ‘I’d love to have you guys there.’ He decided he was gonna take care of us, which was really generous and nice of him. We were all thrilled.

“Can’t wait to see him, at least be in the environment of being able to cheer for him that much closer than the TV.’’

No sir, sharing this milestone via television was not going to cut it. And so Panariello, brothers Matt and Tim Stairiker and Steve Mocey — all friends from Lansdale Catholic High School — will be at the hometown venue of their hometown team, Eagles fans all. But not on this night. Judge laid down the law: Blue, not green, is the color to be worn for anyone related to him or part of his posse.

Giants coach Joe Judge with friends Frank Panariello, Matt Stairiker, Tim Stairiker and Steve Moncey.Courtesy of Frank Panariello

So, not the favorite Brian Dawkins No. 20 jersey for Panariello.

“He definitely never had to tell me,’’ he said. “I already got a Giants hat, already have the Giants colors, I’m ready to go.’’

This is a big deal for many reasons. As a 38-year-old first-time head coach, Judge got off to a rough start, losing his first five games, before finally breaking through last week in a tense and unartful 20-19 victory over Washington.

Judge could not have his family at that game or any Giants home games — no fans are allowed at MetLife Stadium — so this will be the first time his wife, Amber, and their four kids, Sean (14), Michael (11), Emma Riley (9) and Ella Grace (7), will get to see him live as a head coach. There also are “a large number of cousins,’’ Judge said, who as soon as the schedule came out back in the summer, put in ticket requests for this game.

“The kids have school on Friday, so we’ll kind of see how they’re going to manage that,’’ Judge said, before laying out a plan how they will manage this. “They’ve gone to school plenty of times tired [after] making games. The opportunity that it’s such a close game and the opportunity that it’s the first game they are going to be available to go with fans. They definitely don’t want to miss it.’’

Judge is a Philly guy. He grew up in Doylestown, Pa., played quarterback, wore a Dan Marino jersey as a kid and had a Peyton Manning Tennessee jersey in his room. His late father, Joseph (called “Joskie’’), was a staunch Eagles fan, as were the rest of the extended family — even though his older brother, Jimmy, wore a Lawrence Taylor jersey to annoy everyone.

“Even his college years, it would be Mississippi State on Saturday, and Sunday would be the Eagles,’’ said Panariello, who spent countless hours at the Judge house, living there for a time when Joe was away at college. “When he made it to the NFL [as an assistant coach] they would watch the Patriots, but definitely the channel sometimes would be switched over to take a peek at the Eagles game if it was at the same time.’’

Judge once left passes for Panariello and Mocey at the Linc when the Patriots were in town, allowing for access to the locker room area after the game. Mocey was wearing an old-school Eagles Starter jacket. This was not going to fly, and so Mocey turned the jacket inside-out.

“When Joe saw him, he knew,’’ Panariello said. “He’s like, ‘Yeah, you would.’ He was like, ‘Who were you rooting for?’ ’’

In the past, Judge’s friends would see him at the Patriots’ hotel on Saturday when the game was in Philadelphia, or else see him before or after the game the next day. Sometimes, Panariello picked Judge up at the hotel and they would scurry over to Geno’s Steaks for cheesesteaks. Judge’s friends were also welcomed into his orbit the four times the Patriots made the Super Bowl during his eight-year stay with New England.

Judge often spins questions about himself and his emotions to team themes and he tried to stiff-arm inquiries of what awaits him this weekend.

“I’m really just focused on the Eagles as an opponent right now, to be honest with you,’’ he said. “I’m sure it will be a little bit different riding down the street like it always is when you kind of get back in that town. Ultimately, right now, I’m just focused on the football part of it. To me, that’s the most important thing I can do. Any time your mind drifts a little bit down some other road, you’ve got to reset pretty fast because they’re not caring about someone coming home for some kind of homecoming tour.’’

All games are big to a novice head coach. This one, given where it is and what it represents to a Philly guy, is, if not bigger, certainly more personal in nature.

“With the background, considering it’s Philadelphia and him being raised here and his first NFL head coaching experience with his own team, the New York Giants, it means a lot,’’ Panariello said.

“That goes for us, too, as friends. It’s like a special moment. It’s just a different game with him being a head coach now and going against the Eagles. It will be a special, special game for him, I would believe. He would love to take the win on this one. I know I would love to see him take the win on this one.’’

Source : Paul Schwartz Link

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