NFL Films to bring 'fascinating' story of York High grad Arians to national audience
To understand how Bruce Arians became the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, you first have to understand where he came from.
That will be the task for NFL Films when it profiles Arians in one of its installments of "A Football Life." The hour-long documentary series focuses on players and coaches off the field and the stories that shaped their lives. For Arians, that means allowing the general public to get inside the years and years of coaching stops, and firings, before finally landing his first head coaching gig in the NFL.
"He's everything that's right about the NFL," said Trent Cooper, the project director for NFL Films. "And no one really knows his story yet. They know him as the guy who filled in for Chuck Pagano when Pagano got sick, and they love him for that reason, and he's somebody that they love and root for. But, they don't know the amazing backstory that led up to that moment."
The project's foundation: The idea to make Arians, who grew up in York County, the focus of one of these documentaries began last year, when Cooper was the producer of a one-on-one sit-down interview that Arians did with NFL Network's Marshall Faulk. It was during that time, when Cooper was researching Arians, that he discovered his incredible story.
"I'm behind the scenes and I'm listening to Bruce talk to Marshall," Cooper said. "And I'm hearing there's so much depth and such a rich story here and I'm thinking to myself, 'How is this not a documentary? How are we not doing an hour-long piece on this guy?' He's fascinating."
To tell the story of Arians, a guy who, over his three-plus decades of coaching, has been given the moniker "The Quarterback Whisperer," NFL Films traveled all over the country to talk to various players he's coached and coaches he's served with. Sunday, the crew was in York as part of their multi-day stay in the area to get a sense of where Arians grew up and how it shaped him as a person.
"He's paid his dues": During Arizona's game against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday evening, Cooper and his crew were at Brewvino, at 251 N. George St., to get footage of the Arians fan base that gathers there for every Cardinals' game. Those fans were decked out in red, with some wearing custom Cardinals jerseys, while every person cheered and groaned after a big play like it was the Super Bowl. Among them were a couple of Arians' oldest friends from his days growing up in York, John Folk, 63, and Denny Stock, 66. Combined, the two have been friends with Arians for nearly a century and know him as the humble, hard-working guy from York who hasn't forgotten where he came from. But now, they're excited to know that the rest of the nation will learn about his life, too.
"He's paid his dues," said Stock, who now lives in Manchester Township. "He moved 15 times to get where he is today. So, we're happy because he is where he is today because of that and it's gratifying to know that the whole sports nation finally gets to see how damn special this guy is."
While NFL Films is in York County, it will visit the two homes Arians grew up in; Small Field, where Arians played high school football; York High School, where Arians graduated; the Caterpillar distribution center, where his father worked; and the York Barbell building.
"We're really just getting a feel for the texture and the grit of this town, in a very good way, because we feel like it's still a real part of him today," Cooper said.
Air date: NFL Films only does 13 documentaries on players and coaches each year, so Arians is in rarified air to get his own show. The tentative air date for Arians' documentary is Dec. 11, but nothing has been finalized, according to Cooper.
While the piece will give the general public a look inside Arians' upbringing and his ups-and-downs as a coach, Cooper said that Arians always has, and always will be, a coach. So this documentary is for all the other coaches out there, not just in football.
"He's a coach," Cooper said. "He grew up admiring and looking up to coaches, putting coaches on a pedestal. He thought they were gods and he always wanted to be a coach. So, we sort of decided that we were making this film for coaches. It's for Little League coaches, soccer coaches, high school football coaches, NFL coaches. That's who he wanted to see this first because he really is — if you look at the body of work and the life and the journey, the highs and the lows — he embodies the word 'coach' more than anyone I know."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com; follow on Twitter @P_Strohecker