With her husband’s 50th birthday coming up, Kelly Eberflus was planning a major celebration to mark the milestone.
“I was going to have a big 50th birthday party for him and invite all of our family and friends from all over to come in,” she said. “But then, all of this happened.”
As the Coronavirus spread and the country shut down – like so many others, Kelly had to come up with another way to honor her husband. And seeing all the drive-by celebrations on social media inspired her.
“I love parades. I always have. That’s what we did as kids. There was a Memorial Day parade, there was a Fourth of July parade, there was a Labor Day parade. I remember every year growing up as kids going to parades,” she said. “How fun was that?”
She sent out an email to give Matt’s colleagues a heads up – and the response she got back was huge.
Going into his third season as defensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts – Matt, or “Coach Flus” as he’s known to his players, is more comfortable letting them shine.
“Matt is a low-key kind of guy. He does not like the spotlight at all,” Kelly said. “He’s so comfortable on the field doing what he does. But when it’s just focused on him, he doesn’t love that attention.”
And that makes it more fun for Kelly and his two daughters, Grace and Giada, to shower him with it.
They started out his birthday weekend by taking him to Cleveland to celebrate with family.
While they were gone, Kelly had a huge sign put up in their yard.
“I had to turn the Ring doorbell off when they came to set it up because it sends alerts,” she laughed.
On Sunday, the day of his actual birthday, he threw her a surprise.
“Matt said, ‘I think I want to stop and see my mom on the way home.’ And I was like, ‘Oh.’ Because we had everything timed out. I didn’t want to say, ‘No, you can’t go see your mom.’”
They left Cleveland early, swung through Toldeo to visit with his mom, and got home just in time to get ready for the real surprise.
“When we pulled into the driveway, he saw the yard sign. He was like, ‘Oh, you guys got me good!’ So I think at that point, he thought that was it.”
The girls ran upstairs, got ready, and raced off on the golf cart to meet the guests in the parking lot down the street.
As the cars pulled up, the girls greeted them. Colts chaplain Eric Simpson went car by car, checking in on the coaches and their families. When Head Coach Frank Reich pulled up, he did the same.
With Colts mascot, Blue, at the front of the line, it was time to start the parade.
Kelly told Matt the girls wanted him to come outside to take a family photo in front of the sign.
“We walked out there and all of the sudden, he started hearing the horns honking – and then he saw Blue.”
One after another, Matt was greeted with carloads of birthday love and well wishes.
“It really touched him,” Kelly said. “He got to see each person individually when they came by. I was so thankful that people thought it was important enough to come and drive by.”
From General Manger Chris Ballard to Frank and Linda Reich, Offensive Coordinator Nick Sirianni, Special Teams Coordinator Bubba Ventrone, and many, many others – it wasn’t just a chance to see Coach Eberflus, it was a chance to see each other.
“It’s great to have Zoom and FaceTime, but it’s still not the same,” said Kelly. “You can never underestimate the power of human face-to-face interaction. The positivity that has, especially when you’re dealing with coaches and the team and people that work together – that’s a morale booster.”
It all made for a memorable birthday.
“We’ll never forget it because it was his 50th, but the fact that it happened during the pandemic and this social distancing thing – it was unique in itself because of that.”
From weddings to graduations, the COVID-19 virus has called off countless events this year.
But it can’t shut down the celebrations.
“That’s the thing about America, people always adjust,” Kelly said. “They find a way to make it work.”
On Sunday, the Colts gathered to celebrate one of the their own.
And seeing each other in person was a gift to everyone.