Former Hokie Arians leads Bucs against Chiefs in Super Bowl

Former Tech teammates reflect on Bruce’s rise to NFL success
Published: Feb. 2, 2021 at 9:51 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - When the Bucs face the Chiefs in Sunday’s Super Bowl, former Hokie Bruce Arians will be after his first Super Bowl win as a head coach. We caught up with two of Bruce’s former Tech teammates who have watched him climb the ladder to NFL success.

Longtime Hokies radio analyst and Tech Hall of Famer Mike Burnop caught passes from Don Strock in 1972 when Bruce Arians served as Strock’s backup.

“He’ll be the first to tell you,” says Burnop. “He wasn’t a great player. He didn’t have the best arm but he was tough as nails. When it came to getting the ball in around the goal line he would go for it. He wasn’t built like Strock and like Gil Schwab and our other quarterbacks, 6′5″, 6′6″. He was just a short guy that was kind of bulky. "

Burnop and his teammates could see from early on that Arians may have a career in coaching.

“You knew that he knew the x’s and o’s,” Burnop continued. “He knew exactly what was going on. He learned a lot from Dan Henning when Dan was the offensive coordinator here under Charley Coffey. Obviously, when Coach Coffey got fired, that whole staff departed and Jimmy Sharpe came in and he became really close with Jimmy Sharpe. Still to this day, they’re great friends. You just kind of felt like, down the road, that guy was going to be a coach.”

Phil Rogers is also a Tech Hall of Famer who played running back in the same backfield with Arians in 1974. When Arians graduated, Rogers made the move from running back to quarterback, and leaned heavily on Arians, who became a graduate assistant with the Hokies in 1975.

“At quarterback, you’ve got steps and your legs, and your position, how you throw the ball, fake the ball,” Rogers recalled. “It was a lot to learn and Bruce helped me along, snapping the ball from center, how you hold your hands and which way you move. We ran the wishbone and that was a little different than when he played. He had a little swag about him. He was pretty knowledgeable about the game.”

Copyright 2021 WDBJ. All rights reserved.