From the sidelines
By Marty Gordon
Bruce Arians, the head coach of the Super-Bowl bound Tampa Bay Buccaneers, definitely remembers his early football roots here in Blacksburg. Last week, he sported a Virginia Tech shirt during post-game interviews and is proud of his Hokie heritage.
The 68-year-old has been the coach of the Bucs for the past two years, but 2020-21 has proven to be special as he will be leading the team against the Kansas City Chiefs in this year’s Super Bowl on February 7.
Previously, he had coached the Arizona Cardinals from 2013-2017 after serving as the interim coach for the Indianapolis Colts and as the head man at Temple from 1983-1988.
He was named the NFL Coach of the Year with the Colts and then again with the Cardinals in 2014. Look for that to happen again this year.
His connections to Virginia Tech run deep as he played quarterback for the Holies in the mid-70s. As a senior in 1974, he completed 53 of 118 passes for 952 yards with two touchdowns in a wishbone-style offense. He left Blacksburg with the most rushing touchdowns in a season by a quarterback with 11, a mark that waited until 2016 and Jerod Evans to be broken.
While at Tech, Arians became the first white player in the school’s history to share a dorm room with a black player, James Barber, the father of Ronde and Tiki Barber, who set several NFL marks.
The Hokies gave Arians his first coaching job as a graduate assistant in 1975.He later served as an assistant at Mississippi State and as running backs coach at the University of Alabama under some guy by the name of Bear Bryant.
He then took a leap to the professional ranks as a running backs coach with the Kansas City Chiefs, the team his Bucs will face in the Super Bowl. Additional stints included time with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Cleveland Browns and the New Orleans Saints.
You gotta love the trademark phase he has used through it all: “No risk it no biscuit. You can’t live scared.”
That philosophy has made him a coach lots of people would love to play for, including his current quarterback, Tom Brady, who left New England to join the Bucs this season. Arians, who has been called a quarterback whisperer, has also coached some guy by the name of Peyton Manning.
Almost all of his players have said Arians treats them in a different way than others.
“My quarterbacks have to be a member of my family, and that has nothing to do with football,” said Arians. “Trust is everything. We have to connect on a deep level in order to really be able to build something together. Trust brings a higher level of communication and a higher level of commitment and accountability. We have to care for one another. It’s all about family, family, family.”
Arians has started a charity called “The Arians Family Foundation,” which supports and develops programs to prevent and remedy the abuse and neglect of children. The Arians Family Foundation supports the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program.
We have to also recognize that Arians is a survivor of prostate cancer and his wife, Christine, is also a Hokie. The two met while they were students at Tech.
Tech alums Cody Grimm and Nick Rapone are also on the Buccaneers’ coaching staff.
Rapone played collegiately at Tech from 1974-78 before embarking on a coaching career. He previously coached with Arians at Temple and with the Arizona Cardinals. The New Castle, Penn., native spent over 30 years in the collegiate ranks before joining the Cardinals in 2012. He enjoyed stints at Delaware, Pitt, East Tennessee State and Connecticut, in addition to his time at Temple.
Grimm joined the Buccaneers’ coaching staff after serving in various capacities on the Tech coaching staff for four seasons. He lettered four years (2006-09) as a linebacker for the Hokies after originally joining the team as a walk-on. As a senior, he led the nation with seven forced fumbles and amassed 106 tackles, 12.5of them for loss and four sacks, earning first-team All-ACC and third-team AP All-America honors. He was selected by the Buccaneers in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL Draft as a safety. He appeared in 23 games (12 starts) for the Bucs, totaling 62 tackles, three passes defensed and two interceptions with one touchdown.
We wish our fellow Hokies good luck on February 7. It should be a close game, and when the dust clears, the Hokie connection could be a Super Bowl champion.