TAMPA - Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians has a lot of love for his alma mater.
"I love the Hokies and I’ll be a Hokie for life," Arians said. "I won’t be anything else for life, but I'll be a dang Hokie for life. I know that."
It was during Arians' years as a Hokie when he laid the groundwork for becoming the type of coach he is today. After leading the team as its quarterback, he returned for a fifth season as a grad assistant under the tutelage of one of his biggest mentors, Jimmy Sharpe.
"Jimmy taught me how to make players believe they’re gonna win every single game even though they probably didn’t have the chance, because we stunk, but we went on the field every time believing we were gonna win the game," Arians said.
"Bruce was a winner," Arians' former Virginia Tech teammate Jay Neal said. "He could get a little bit uptight over it, but he wanted to win, and he played hard, and expected everybody else to play hard and if you weren’t doing your job he’d let you know."
“He's an easy guy to get along with," Arians' former Virginia Tech teammate Morris Blueford said. "He had a way of getting along with everybody.”
Arians' ability to find common ground with people of all different backgrounds was key, because when he played for Tech in the 1970s, the school had only just started allowing Black athletes to join the football team.
During that time, Arians became the first white player to room with a Black player in school history.
Fast forward to today and he's put together the NFL's most diverse coaching staff with all-Black coordinators and multiple women as assistant coaches.
"To hear voices in a staff meeting that aren’t the same, don’t look alike, but they all have input, you get better output," Arians said.
Output that has led them to the NFL's biggest game of the season, Super Bowl LV between the Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs.
As Arians says, "I'll be a Hokie for life," and a win on Sunday allows him to add another title that will last for life... Super Bowl winning head coach.