A pause from the many autographs finally came.
Sitting at a table inside the Heritage Hills Golf Resort and Conference Center on Thursday afternoon, former Penn State lineman and current Baltimore Ravens lineman A.Q. Shipley stood up, took a few steps forward to a neighboring table and stuck out his giant paw of a hand to greet his old coach, Bruce Arians, now the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.
"We've kept in touch and I've kept tabs on him," Shipley said. "He was one of my favorite coaches I've ever played for."
Shipley had been there in Indianapolis in 2012, seeing action in 14 games for the Colts, while Arians received one of the most significant opportunities of his long coaching career, albeit through some unfortunate circumstances. When Colts head coach Chuck Pagano needed to step aside for a battle with leukemia, Arians, a cancer survivor himself, took the reins on an interim basis and won nine of 12 games, guiding the Colts to a playoff berth.
It became the top story in the 2012 NFL season. Arians became the first interim coach to earn NFL Coach of the Year honors and was soon hired by the Arizona Cardinals as their head coach.
"He was great as a coach. He really was," Shipley said. "He understood how to get the most out of us in practice, and learning off-the-field, but not killing us. And not making it feel like a grind, because it is. Every year is. He develops relationships outside of football and he does care about each guy individually. I think that's few and far between in this business."
Shipley and Arians were two of nine sports figures taking part in the 50th York Area Sports Night event Thursday. Arians, a 1970 York High graduate and 2007 York Area Sports Hall of Fame inductee, is also using the trip back to York to visit family.
"My brothers are up in Hanover," Arians said. "My mom's in Hanover. My brother-in-law is in West York and my mom (mother-in-law) is in West York. We try to get back at least twice a year. Sometimes we can only get back once."
The clean-shaven Arians was again donning his iconic beret hat, this one in the color of black to match his black-rimmed eye-glasses, black shirt, gray plaid jacket, brown pants and black shoes. He reflected on several topics Thursday.
He thought he'd never get his shot: Among the highlights was the moment he recalled thinking he'd never get a chance to become an NFL head coach. It came after the 2009 Super Bowl when he helped the Pittsburgh Steelers win it all in his second year as offensive coordinator.
"I pretty much gave up after (the) Super Bowl that I was gonna get a call (to be an NFL head coach). We had won the Super Bowl and I had called that drive to win the game. And then there was no phone calls," Arians said. "I was very happy with where I was (as offensive coordinator in Indianapolis in 2012). Coaching Andrew Luck for the next four or five years wasn't a bad gig. And then all the things that happened with Chuck, things happen for a reason. They just opened some doors and opened some eyes."
Finally, at 60 and after 37 years of coaching, Arians became an NFL head coach for the first time when the Cards brought him on board around this time last year. This past season, Arians led Arizona to the franchise's second 10-win season since the Cardinals moved to Arizona in 1988. Arizona even beat this year's Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks in Seattle before narrowly missing the playoffs.
"That's why we're so excited about getting back because we know how close we are," Arians said. "We played San Francisco to two games that were winnable and then split with Seattle and split with St. Louis, so we have a chance to win our division and we know we're a pretty good football team."
— Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.