York High graduate Bruce Arians is the new head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.

The team announced Thursday it is bringing in Arians after he had a storybook year as the Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator-turned-temporary coach. He filled in for head coach Chuck Pagano while he was treated for cancer and helped get the Colts to the NFL playoffs.

The Colts job came after Arians spent five seasons as the Pittsburgh Steelers' offensive coordinator, helping them to a Super Bowl victory at the end of the 2008 season.

Arians, 60, also previously served as quarterbacks coach during the early part of Peyton Mannings' Colts career. And he has had multiple college coaching stints, including his only other head coaching gig at Temple University

But his coaching career nearly ended before it started.

Bruce Arians, a graduate of York High, is leaving the Indianapolis Colts and joining the Arizona Cardinals as head coach.
Bruce Arians, a graduate of York High, is leaving the Indianapolis Colts and joining the Arizona Cardinals as head coach.

Arians' longtime friend John Sprenkle recalls the mid-1970s when they were football teammates at Virginia Tech. Sprenkle remembers Arians being frustrated entering his final year of football eligibility. Arians had already received his diploma but, after redshirting a year, still had a year left to play.

Sprenkle, a York resident, was working at West York School District at the time. He remembers Arians thinking he might pursue a teaching job rather than play quarterback at Virginia Tech his final year. So Arians, wearing a three-piece suit, went to West York looking for a job.

Fortunately for quarterbacks Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck, and now the Arizona Cardinals, West York was plum out of jobs.

"It's just crazy. He was graduating, he wanted to move on," Sprenkle said, joking how Arians was "all nervous" for the interview.

Arians instead went back to Virginia Tech, had a huge season and then went on to a successful college coaching career guided by the legendary Bear Bryant.

Sprenkle thought for sure "someone would snag him" when Arians filled in so well for Pagano, going 9-3 in that time as the Colts made the playoffs this season.

Arians is taking over for Ken Whisenhunt, a former Steelers offensive coordinator who was fired after six seasons with the Cardinals.

"I couldn't be happier for him," Sprenkle said. "He related well to these guys. He speaks their language."

Reaction: Arians wasn't to be introduced as the coach until Friday afternoon, but in his meeting with reporters Thursday before he was hired, Arians said his stint as Pagano's replacement "answered all questions I ever had" about whether he could succeed as an NFL coach.

"I hope it answered all the questions everybody else has had for all these years," he said. "It has been an unbelievable 12 months for me personally."

Arians' former high school football coach always knew Arians would go on to great things. Paul Borsa coached at York Catholic, where Arians played for four years as quarterback and linebacker, for 30 years.

"You can't ask for more than what he had done," said Borsa.

Arians graduated in 1970.

"I knew in high school he was just a tremendous athlete. He could do things naturally that other people had to practice."

Borsa said it's "great for the community" seeing Arians do so well; Arians is a member of the York Sports Hall of Fame.

Arians will have another local connection out there, too. Former York County resident Steve Keim, 40, was promoted to be the Cardinals' general manager. Keim is a Red Land High School graduate and has worked for the Cardinals for 14 years.

- Reach Andrew Shaw at ashaw@yorkdispatch.com