During Bruce Arians’ career coaching college and NFL football, which began in 1975 and ended when he announced his retirement last week, he had a mantra.
“No risk it, no biscuit.”
Arians’ first head coaching job, and his last before his tenure with the Arizona Cardinals from 2013-17, was at Temple from 1983-88. Arians was just 30 years old when he took the Owls’ job and inherited a program that posted a 13-19 record after winning the 1979 Garden State Bowl.
Yet, as his former Temple players recalled, Arians wasn’t afraid to play big-name programs like Virginia Tech, Boston College, Penn State and the University of Pittsburgh. After all, “no risk it, no biscuit.”
“You know when Mike Tyson was young he fought everybody?” said Paul Palmer, who played running back from 1983-86 and earned selection to the College Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018 on Monday. “And it didn’t matter, wherever you wanted to fight, he’d fight you. Well, coach was the same way.”
“Whoever we played, there was not one time that we did not go into that game expecting that we couldn’t beat them,” said Keith Gloster, who played wide receiver from 1984-87. “And I think that was the greatest thing he ever did for us was build up our confidence, believe in ourselves that we could play with anybody, and we did.”
Part of that attitude, Palmer said, came because Arians’ previous job was at the University of Alabama as the running backs coach for two seasons under legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. The other part came because Arians was young and “probably didn’t know any damn better” to be unintimidated against some of the best teams, Palmer said.
After Chris Chambers’ Temple career from 1985-89, he coached at South Jersey’s Edgewood Regional High School, now known as Winslow Township High School — he and Gloster’s alma mater — from 1990-2006.
As Chambers coached alongside his former Owls teammate Sheldon Morris, he set up practices as if one of them was Arians and one was Nick Rapone, who worked as the Owls’ defensive coordinator and secondary coach from 1983-88, coached again at Temple from 1999-2005 and worked with Arians with the Cardinals starting in 2013.
“[Arians] would say in his personality when he didn’t like you and when he said that, what he was talking about is your football play,” Chambers said. “So he always coached us hard. …He challenged you but after the football part was over, you had a chance to speak with him one-on-one, then he nurtured you.”
Arians’ former players remain close with him and other coaches on his staff. When the Arizona Cardinals traveled to take on the Philadelphia Eagles during the 2013 season, they held a practice at Temple’s Chodoff Field. Several of Arians’ former Temple players attended.
“Once the practice was over, it was like a family reunion,” Morris said.
“I think what makes us special to him is that we were his only college head coaching job,” Morris added.
During his guest spot on ESPN Radio’s “Golic and Wingo” last week, Arians said he “can’t wait to go to Cherry and White this year to see all those guys because they’re so close.”
“It’s like we all kind of grew up together,” Palmer said. “They grew up as coaches, and we just simply grew up as young men.”