Bruce Arians as a quarterback for the Hokies and, right, with with wife Christine. VIRGINIA TECH & SUBMITTED PHOTOS
By Marty Gordon
Bruce Arians, the head coach of the Super Bowl bound Tampa Bay Buccaneers, definitely remembers his early football roots in Blacksburg. After the NBC championship game 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 and 2020-21 has proven to be his best yet, leading the team to this Sunday’s Super Bowl. Previously Bruce had coached the Arizona Cardinals from 2013-2017 after serving as the interim coach for the Indianapolis Colts. He was also the head coach at Temple University from 1983-1988. Arians was named the NFL Coach of the Year with the Colts, and then again with the Cardinals in 2014. There’s a good chance that will happen again this year.
Bruce’s connections to Virginia Tech run deep, as he played quarterback at the school in the early 1970s. As a senior in ‘74, 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. His mark wasn’t even broken by all-world Michael Vick, although Jerod Evans passed Arians in 2016.
While at Tech, Arians became the first white player to share a dorm room with a black player in the history of the school, rooming with runningback James Barber. Barber is the birth father of Ronde and Tiki Barber, who set several NFL marks.
It was the Hokies that gave Arians his start in coaching as a 1975 graduate assistant. He later served as an assistant at Mississippi State and running backs coach at the University of Alabama under the legendary 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 face in the Super Bowl. Additional stints included time with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns and New Orleans Saints.
His trademark phrase that he has said through it all is, “No risk it no biscuit. You can’t live scared.” That philosophy has made him a coach many 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 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 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.
Arians is a survivor of prostate cancer and his wife, Christine, is also a Hokie. The two met while students at the Blacksburg school.
In addition to Bruce, 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, Pennsylvania 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, Grimm led the nation with seven forced fumbles and amassed 106 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and four sacks, earning first-team All-ACC and third-team AP All-America honors.
Cody was selected by the Buccaneers in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL Draft as a safety. He appeared in 23 games, including 12 starts, for the Bucs, totaling 62 tackles, three passes defensed and two interceptions with one TD.
This Sunday the three Hokies will be on the sideline when the Bucs play the defending NFL champion Kansas City Chiefs, and when the dust clears the Hokie products could be Super Bowl champions.