Nick Rapone has spent four decades coaching football in the high school, collegiate and professional ranks.
A big reason for his longevity in a profession where it often is tough to maintain a job?
The first and most obvious answer is talent. The New Castle High graduate is regarded as one of the top defensive minds in the country at any level. Second, and perhaps just as importantly, however, is that the respect for Rapone off the field is hard to match.
That became evident last week, when he was offered his second coaching job in the NFL in six years.
The person who came calling once again was Bruce Arians, who got to know Rapone, first as a player at Virginia Tech, then when he asked him to join his staff at Temple University in 1983, a relationship that lasted six years until Arians left to become running backs coach with the Kanas City Chiefs.
When Arians got the head coaching job with the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals in 2013, he asked Rapone to come on board to coach defensive backs.
Although Arians retired from the Cardinals in 2017, he decided to return to the NFL as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week and again reached out to his good friend.
Rapone, who had just left a second stint at the University of Delaware, first had to let college coaching legend Steve Spurrier know that he would not be able to serve under him as a defensive coach for the Orlando Apollos of the newly minted Alliance of American Football.
But as Rapone said, when the NFL comes calling, you don’t say no, and he knew that Spurrier would understand that.
Rapone, 62, is making his 14th stop in coaching. He has been known as a defensive wizard throughout his career.
While at Delaware, Rapone was part of a coaching staff that helped lead the Blue Hens to two national championship appearances in 2007 and 2010.In the latter season, he was named the 2010 FootballScoop NCAA Division I FCS Coordinator of the Year.
Following his first move to the NFL and the Arizona Cardinals 2013, Rapone helped lead a defense that became one of the best in the NFL.
While this may be Pittsburgh Steelers country, we are proud of the accomplishments of one of Lawrence County’s favorite sons and wish him well in Tampa Bay.