Mount Pleasant Elementary School Principal Matt Auerbach was delivering his routine morning announcements on a November Wednesday when the livestream was suddenly taken over by Brandon Graham, his favorite Philadelphia Eagle.
Graham had a surprise: Auerbach had been named the 2022 Eagles Fan of the Year.
“We actually were doing an Eagles spirit day that day, and I didn’t know why because the Eagles weren’t playing that day,” Auerbach said, “but my assistant principal had convinced me to do it, and they had been organizing this whole thing without my knowledge. It was just incredible.”
Stunned, Auerbach was swarmed by a television crew and Eagles video personnel who led him to another room where he was greeted by his wife, son, team cheerleaders and Eagles’ mascot Swoop.
Auerbach was then given four-foot tall Super Bowl 57 tickets and told he had won an all-expense paid trip to Arizona where he’ll get a VIP experience.
“So many people including my wife, our admin assistants, assistant principal were all behind the scenes working together to make this happen for me, which is just amazing,” he said. “I feel so blessed that this all happened.”
He was given the award Nov. 2, 2022, a day before the Eagles played the Houston Texans on Thursday Night Football.
Auerbach will fly down to Glendale, Arizona whether or not the Birds make the Super Bowl, but he’s confident he’ll be cheering on his beloved team.
They are 13-3 and sit atop the National Football League standings heading into the last week of the regular season.
“I’m predicting the Eagles are going all the way and I’m gonna see them in Arizona on Feb. 12, absolutely,” he said.
His fandom started around the age of 10. He started going to games around that age. His physician father, a first-generation immigrant, had prime 50-yard-line tickets where Auerback and his brother sat with him.
Auerbach became a season-ticket holder in his own right in 2003 when the Eagles left the legendary Veterans Stadium and moved into their new home, Lincoln Financial Field.
His favorite memory of the Birds, even though it was a loss to the New England Patriots, was their Super Bowl appearance in 2005. He flew to Florida for the game.
“My dad and I rented a house and spent a long weekend in Jacksonville, and we bonded the whole time,” he said. “We had fun even though they lost the game, and that was probably the most amazing experience around the Eagles that I’ve ever had.”
Winning their first Super Bowl in 2017 by beating Tom Brady and the Patriots in a rematch is another favorite moment, Auerbach said.
He also cherishes meeting his all-time favorite Eagle, quarterback Randall Cunningham, in 2019, shortly after Auerbach’s father died.
His brother-in-law had recently given Auerbach with a Cunningham jersey for his 40th birthday, and Cunningham happened to be the featured player of the game for a Monday night matchup with division rivals New York Giants.
He was the last in line to meet the Eagles legend. They had a long conversation, talking about family and life.
“I shared that my dad had just passed,” Auerbach said. “We have this video and pictures of the two of us with him signing my jersey.”
Cunningham even wrote a personalized note to Auerbach’s son, Noah, a huge fan himself.
“That’s been a big thing for me, passing this passion and love down to my own child as it was passed down to me,” he said “I want him to understand the history of the Eagles and share the experiences my dad gave me, and hopefully he can share with his family and so forth.”
Auerbach called defensive end Graham the heart and soul of this year’s Eagles team.
“He’s later in his career and doesn’t start anymore, but every opportunity he gets, he just always goes out to make the most of it,” the principal said.
Graham is the 2022 Man of the Year representative for Philadelphia. The award is given to honor a player’s commitment to philanthropy and community impact, something Auerbach admires Graham for.
“I feel this desire, this need, this passion, this sort of mission to give better lives, not only for my own children, but for the kids that I work for and with here at the school,” he said.
“They also come from poverty like my dad did in his early childhood, and a lot of the kids that I work with here come from pretty much nothing. A lot of them have extremely traumatic lives with parents who were incarcerated or living below the poverty line.”
Mount Pleasant Elementary, in Wilmington, is a Title 1 school, meaning at least 40 percent of its enrollment consists of children who come from low-income families.
Aurbach’s American dream
Auerbach is a second-generation Jewish immigrant. His grandmother Ester was a Holocaust survivor.
She was one of seven siblings, but only she and her sister survived. Ester brought her son – Auerbach’s father, Allen – at age 2 to the United States by way of Ellis Island.
The family eventually settled in Philadelphia.
“They were looking for an opportunity for themselves but also for their future generations, and that’s when I take a step back and that is what my story is really about,” Auerbach said, “immigrants coming from nothing, from literally the clothes on their back and nothing else, to becoming leaders in the community.”
Ester found work in Northeast Philadelphia’s famous Jewish deli, Ben & Irv’s, where her cooking quickly became a staple of the community.
“Her recipes are still at Ben & Irv’s. Her mushroom barley soup is awesome,” he said. “I went to Ben & Irv’s once with her and they put her up on a pedestal, you know, they were like praising her. It was very touching to see.”
Allen Auerbach went on to put himself through medical school in Iowa after earning his undergraduate at Temple University, but also owned several businesses. Allen was able to send Matt and his brother to Tower Hill, a private prep school in Wilmington.
Matt Auerbach is also in the running for 2022 National Football League Fan of the Year. To vote for him, click here.
Since winning the fan award, Auerbach has been in contact with the two previous Eagles Fans of the Year, as well as the 2022 winners from other teams.
“We’re all in this closed Facebook group,” he said. “I reached out to the fan of the year for Washington when the Commanders were coming to Philly to meet up, so it’s really a family experience all-around.”
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
Jarek can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at (215) 450-9982. Follow him on Twitter @jarekrutz
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