USA TODAY International Edition
Countdown to Super Bowl 55 on Sunday in Tampa, Florida
K. C. players give input on exotic offensive plays; Arians traces roots to Pennsylvania.
YORK, Pa. – The 95- year- old football mother is determined to make it to the Super Bowl.
Catherine Arians talked excitedly on the phone about plans to travel from Hanover, Pennsylvania, to Tampa, Florida, this week to watch her son star in arguably the biggest sporting event in the world.
She’s a good- luck charm, in a sense, for Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians. She witnessed his first two Super Bowl trips in person when he was an assistant with the Steelers ( both victories) but missed the last one after the 2010 season ( a loss).
She’s still the matriarch of the closeknit, York County- based family that’s molded a successful NFL coach. No matter that she’s closing in on another birthday, needs a wheelchair to get around and will be traveling amid a virus pandemic.
COVID- 19 has taken away her beloved Bingo. It won’t ruin Super Bowl 55.
“I know we’re going, and we’re going to win. Think big, right?” she said with a laugh.
She and a handful of family members plan to travel on a Bucs team plane from Harrisburg to Florida to be a part of what they say is the “crowning point” of Arians’ career.
Arians’ unique approach with Brady
To the football world, the York High grad is the brash but lovable coach who shepherded this downtrodden franchise to just its second Super Bowl ever and the first time a team is actually hosting the game.
Arians is one of the most talked about NFL coaches because of his blunt talk, his age, his quarterback expertise and, of course, his coaching success at every stop, small and big.
Who else could lure the winningest quarterback of all time to join on, then call him out publicly after early struggles without missing a step? He proceeded to help Tom Brady mesh with new teammates and a new system amid pandemic protocols to break a 13- year playoff drought.
Even more remarkable about Arians: No one else waited so long to become an NFL head coach only to be forced into retirement because of serious health issues – then storm back onto center stage at 68.
Through it all, he’s still just the son of Catherine and Lambert Arians, the brother to four siblings and a regular York County- raised guy.
Part of his drive and prosperity always will be linked to that.
Roots help guide Arians at Tampa Bay
Bruce Arians’ late father, whom they called Bert, was a lifelong machinist who moved the family from Paterson, New Jersey, to York when the kids were young. When he would be temporarily laid off, he quickly would find two and three part- time jobs to make ends meet.
Catherine worked in a candy factory and a toy store, along with raising five kids.
“Dad was strict, you did something wrong and you knew it. But he was fair. And he was always proud of us,” said Dennis Arians, who is 20 months older than Bruce and lives in the Hanover area. “He instilled that work ethic. You go to work, you do the best you can and you can hold your head high. That’s pretty much what all of us have done.”
That Bruce Arians happened to do such in the public eye never really mattered much.
“He’s always just been him. This is the package you get, take it or leave it, and he’s always been true to that,” Dennis Arians said. “We love him to death, but he’s not going to get a big head around us. ... He might be a star to you guys, but he’s just my brother.”
Bruce Arians’ son Jake, who serves as his agent and president of the family’s nonprofit foundation, put it this way: “He’ll be the underdog forever because of ( his small- town roots). He loves it. He’s not supposed to be here. Just the way he grew up, where he came from ... from just one scholarship offer to play at Virginia Tech to a head coach in the NFL.”
His foundation was built strong early on. The competitive drive came from battles to outdo his older brother, fierce enough that they couldn’t bear to be on the same youth teams.
“We can still play a game of dominoes, and we’re competitive. We don’t care about anyone else as long as we beat each other,” Dennis Arians said. “It’s a brotherly love.”
The loyalty came from his parents and youth coaches, like former York Mayor Charlie Robertson, and his earliest, toughest days as a head coach at Temple. His most trusted players from those early years are his assistants now.
His big risk- big reward attitude in coaching, in part, comes from waiting 30 years to finally become an NFL head coach.
“That’s how I live life,” Bruce Arians said this past week. “So many people are afraid to throw their hat in the ring and try because they’re afraid of failure.”
The “family” just seems to grow and expand through the years. Now, at least 50 to 75 relatives and close friends will be traveling to the Super Bowl from Arizona and Pittsburgh and York County, and about every place in between.
Guiding Buccaneers, family through COVID- 19 pandemic
Just as Bruce Arians deftly led the Bucs’ through a near spotless COVID- 19 record during the season, his wife, Christine, said she has hammered home safety guidelines to everyone making the trip.
Bruce Arians made sure his mother and her in- home caregiver would be traveling with the closest family members on a private plane.
Chris Arians’ large York County family will be thrown into the mix, too, as always.
Certainly, the head coach won’t get as much time with them as he’d like in this celebration, win or lose, because of the game duties.
But having them around means everything to end what he’s called his most enjoyable coaching season in more than four decades.
He’s reportedly healthy from the cancer scares and back problems. He’s more relaxed by delegating coaching duties more than ever, like finally not calling his own plays. His staff is the NFL’s most diverse in all means with four Black coaching coordinators, 82year- old sage Tom Moore and two female assistants.
“I think players need to have a lot of different voices, input from a lot of different minds,” Arians said. “Not everyone thinks alike, but all ideas are welcome.
“Not having gotten opportunities ( easily) and giving opportunities, for me, go hand- in- hand.”
It’s as if he’s somehow found a coaching rebirth when least expected, and he’s not about to give that up now, win or lose on Sunday.
“Why would he stop? He has to compete all the time,” his wife said with a laugh. “He’s never going to get better at golf.”