Matt Patricia knows he has a lot to prove as Lions' head coach

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- When Matt Patricia was 12 years old, he envisioned this moment. Did he ever think it would happen? He wasn't sure. How could he be? He was a middle school kid in a small town in upstate New York.

He loved football, loved strategy and was incredibly smart. So maybe, just maybe, a day like Wednesday would come. A day when the 43-year-old from Sherrill, New York, would be introduced as head coach of an NFL franchise.

He got there in part because of where he came from -- he was a Division III offensive lineman who almost never got into coaching in favor of engineering. His parents were teachers. He started as a Division III coach, worked his way up to running the defense of a dynasty in New England and now is running the Detroit Lions.

Part of him, though, knows he still has a lot to prove.

"I have to go to work every day and prove myself. I'm not the son of a football coach. I didn't go to a big college -- I didn't do any of that. I had to grind my way through it," Patricia told ESPN on Wednesday night. "I was an engineer who decided to try to coach. For me, I just have always felt like I had to try and prove my worth to this organization or to any program that I've been involved in. I have to try and prove that every single day.

"So did I have aspirations? Absolutely. You always want to try and be the best that you can be and at the highest level, kind of do all that. Have I really taken a moment to let it soak in? No. I'm kind of just like focused on the now and make sure everything is handled as well as you can handle it."

Occasionally, though, he'll pull himself outside of his day-to-day, which is when his "childhood self freaks out a little bit, like I can't believe you're this blessed to have these opportunities."

The current opportunity is big. Patricia is being entrusted with trying to turn around a franchise that has won one playoff game in the Super Bowl era, hasn't won a division title since 1993 and has typically been mediocre or worse throughout the past half-century.

It might be why Patricia and his new boss, general manager Bob Quinn, are not putting a time frame on when winning has to happen. Just that it must.

"We're not putting any timelines or timetables on when we're going to win what," Quinn said. "But I think we have great aspirations about what we want to do in this organization."

Patricia said that the first task is handling the NFC North, which has one of the top quarterbacks in the league in Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and one of the top defenses in Minnesota.

A division title is why Quinn and now Patricia were brought to Detroit. It's why Quinn hired Patricia -- a man he's known since 2004, when they were both young low-level staffers with the Patriots.

That relationship shone through during the beginning of their initial interview in Massachusetts on Jan. 5. The long talks about football and life in Patricia's office when they worked together ended up carrying over to the point where Quinn left the meeting for an hour so team president Rod Wood could get to know Patricia more.

The interview process ran the gamut, from big-picture stuff to how they would run training camp. After the first interview was over -- the last one the Lions did -- they felt they had their target.

"It's the most important relationship. They are together all the time, during the offseason, during the season, and I think having the language that they built over 14 years, the relationship they built over 14 years is the same," Wood said. "They are not the same person. They are going to see things sometimes in different ways, but I think they have a way of figuring it out and doing what's right for the Lions.

"There's a trust factor that you can't really repeat right out the gate with a brand-new person that's very obvious to me and should be beneficial."

Quinn said he had an idea that Patricia would be on his short list of candidates for a while and that "if I ever get my chance, Matt and I can probably work together."

Now they will, although there are still some things they have to figure out.

Patricia was vague on the type of defensive scheme that will be run, calling it a process. He also wouldn't commit to whether he or defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni, who was hired Wednesday, would be the one calling defensive plays.

"You know what the good thing about being a head coach is?" Patricia said. "Anytime I want to call a play, offense, defense or special teams, I get to call it. So that'll be pretty exciting for me."

Late on Wednesday night, though, Patricia allowed himself a quick moment to think of what his childhood self might be doing right now -- the kid who once played electric football with friends to strategize was now running an NFL franchise.

"I mean, I'm pretty sure he's jumping up and down," Patricia said. "I'm pretty sure he's freaking out right about now."

That kid -- a man with multiple Super Bowl rings -- is now grown and ready to go.