If you didn’t get a chance to watch “Bruce Arians: A Football Life” on the NFL Network, please do.
There is a lot of good Temple football footage in there and some even better stories. Too bad they didn’t have time to tell all of the good Temple Arians’ stories. For purposes of this space, we’ll just tell two that will not make any national TV show.
Full disclosure: I was the Calkins Newspapers’ Temple football beat writer for almost all of the Arians’ years and got to know the man fairly well–enough to get him a recruit who later became a captain of the 1990 Temple team, center Dick Beck.
Beck, Arians, Central Bucks West coach Mike Pettine (the father of the current Cleveland Browns’ head coach) are the only other people who know this story, but, on the occasion of Bruce coming to town this weekend to play the Eagles, it deserves repeating.
Beck was, without a doubt, the best offensive guard I had ever seen in my years of covering high school sports. On one sweep, he knocked down the nose guard, got up pancaked a linebacker, rolled out of that block, and nailed a corner. This would happen pretty much with regularity, although mostly with just two defenders. When he was a senior, I made it to a CB West practice and stood next to Pettine in the equipment room before casually asking where Dick Beck was going to school.
“It’s between Towson State and West Chester State,” Pettine said.
“What? That’s not happening,” I said. “I’ll talk to Bruce.”
When I got back to the Doylestown Intelligencer, I picked up the phone and called Arians and told him Beck is really, really good. He asked me for Pettine’s number and Pettine was able to have an assistant drive down to Temple to deliver film the next day.
Arians called me that night.
“Mike, we really like his film but we already have our limit,” Arians said. “If one guy backs out, we’re giving it to Beck.”
One 6-4, 275-pound lineman backed out to go to Ivy League Brown and the rest was history.
“Dick should buy you dinner,” Pettine said, “but he can only afford McDonald’s.”
Not necessary, I said.
Beck played his best ball not for Arians, but for Jerry Berndt, who succeeded Arians but Beck was one of the many very good players Arians recruited at Temple and became the only captain of the 1990 Owls, who finished 7-4 and should have made a bowl game. He is now head coach at North Penn in Lansdale and won a state large school championship there.
The other story happened the next year when Temple President Peter J. Liacouras made his biggest mistake. Arians had a farewell press conference that I covered at Mitten Hall. I leaned on the back wall the entire time. After it was over, Bruce made his way to the back of the room and walked up to me and shook my hand.
“Mike, thanks for the great things you wrote about my kids,” Bruce said, shaking my hand before exiting for Broad Street.
That’s how Bruce referred to his players, his kids. They are still his kids to this day, guys like Sheldon Morris, Ray Haynes, Joe Greenwood, Kevin Jones, Paul Palmer and really too many to mention. Almost all have his phone number and stay in touch to this day.
That’s the kind of guy Arians was and is and Temple’s mistake became the Eagles’ mistake when it hired Chip Kelly instead. His head coaching football life started at Temple and we were all lucky to be a part of it.
Tomorrow: Bring on Toledo