Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Written by Carmen Vitali
A Moment 50 Years in the Making
Get to know Bucs Head Coach Bruce Arians through the eyes of his wife, Chris, as the pair celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.
Jun 12, 2021

The clock hits zero as the echoes of over 20,000 screaming fans reverberate throughout Raymond James Stadium on the evening of February 7, 2021. The infamous cannons finally fire from the South End Zone Pirate Ship as confetti is shot out of new additions to the arsenal especially for Super Bowl LV between the visiting Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs have done it. They've not only reached the pinnacle of the NFL world, capturing the franchise's second Lombardi Trophy in its history, but they've done it in a way no one else has before: on their home field.

Sometimes, the best things in life come to those who wait.

As the Bucs' bench empties with players and coaches pouring out onto the field and into the throes of celebration, from the home tunnel comes a petite brunette, blue eyes sparkling as they search for their same-colored counterparts in the sea of red and pewter. They find them as Christine Arians is ushered to her husband, Head Coach Bruce Arians, and the two of them embrace, joined by their two children, Jake and Kristi, in a moment that the four of them will remember for their rest of their lives.

A moment 50 years in the making.

Christine Allen, like her future husband, grew up as one of five children in a 'good, Catholic family' in York, Pennsylvania. The daughter of a former collegiate football player, she picked up interest in the game from a very early age.

"As one of five kids, if you wanted Dad's attention, you sat and watched football with him on Saturdays and Sundays," Christine explained. "Saturday, we watched Notre Dame and Sundays we watched the then-Baltimore Colts. Johnny Unitas was my hero.

"So, when I started dating this guy who played football, I could already understand it and liked it. That turned out to be a big deal."

She didn't know how big of a deal then, of course. But that's because the awkward-looking freshman with sandy-colored hair in homeroom, who had just undergone a six-inch growth spurt the summer before, had aspirations of becoming a physical therapist. Not a football coach.

By the time sophomore year rolled around, 'Brucie,' as Chris now so affectionately calls him, had filled out a little bit more as he helped tutor her in French and the pair became closer.

"I'll just sort of give you a hint," said Chris. "I didn't need help with my French."

High school sweethearts, they ended up going to separate colleges, with Bruce earning a scholarship to play quarterback at Virginia Tech. Chris went to a college closer to home and would make the six-hour road trip every third weekend of the month to see him. They made it work… until one day.

Bruce had just been home for Christmas break but as soon as he arrived back at school, he missed Chris so much that he immediately hitchhiked back to see her again.

But getting back to school proved to be tricky this time and apparently, something clicked as he finally got back to Virginia. He called Chris from a payphone saying, "I can't do this anymore."

Chris's first thought? Oh my God, this son of a b---- is breaking up with me.

But composing herself, she instead asked him, "What do you mean?"

"Well, I guess we're going to have to get married," said Bruce. "Because I can't stand being here without you."

"It was pretty indicative of our relationship," Chris chuckles. "It was also pathetic. It's indirectly romantic is [actually] what I'm saying."

Yep. Bruce Arians: indirect romantic.

The two were married in their hometown of York, Pennsylvania in St. Rose of Lima church on June 12, 1971, like the two good Catholic kids they were. Chris didn't care much for a big wedding and the two didn't even have a honeymoon. Bruce had to start work the next evening at the steel mill for a summer job before going back to Virginia, where Bruce would finish his playing career for the Hokies.

Chris decided she'd go to law school after scoring well on the LSAT test in Bruce's last year of playing football and then he'd pursue physical therapy like he always wanted, right?

"He didn't even tell me he was going to be a coach," Chris said. "I think I was a little naïve."

Before Chris could enroll in any of the law schools she applied to in Virginia, the staff at Virginia Tech, where Bruce was now coaching, was let go and Chris became pregnant with their first child, Jake. It was off to Alabama then, where Bruce would work under legendary head coach Bear Bryant. Chris started law school at the University of Alabama before then having to transfer because Bruce got his first head coaching job at Temple University. She'd graduate from there.

Head spinning, yet?

Not only did Chris go to two different law schools, she'd also end up taking the bar in four different states and practicing family law while juggling two kids and a husband with an incredibly demanding schedule. Every day she was exhausted by the time she got the kids to bed and it didn't go unnoticed by Bruce.

At one point, when their youngest, Kristi, went to Kindergarten, Chris says she brought up the possibility of having another baby, which was met with horror, as she describes it, from Bruce.

"I feel so guilty now, I don't have any guilt leftover for a third child," he admitted, knowing how much he was missing out on and the burden he was placing on Chris.

If his proposal was indirectly romantic, that statement may just be indirectly responsible for a major part of his coaching philosophy.

"If you miss a football game, a recital, anything to do with your children, I'll fire you."

Bruce has said it to every staff he's led. He's not the coach that believes in the long hours because that's how it's always been done. Put the work in, yes. Do your job, yes. But never put it ahead of your family. A luxury perhaps he wishes he was afforded more throughout his career.

In the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LV, with the Bucs not only comfortably in the lead but comfortably in control of the game, Kristi turned to her mom as they watched from a suite, hugged her and said, "This win is for you and me and Jake."

"Because, you know, the kids sacrifice," said Chris. "We all sacrificed to get him where he was and that choked me up."

But even through the non-confetti'd times, like when Bruce was making $15,000 a year at his first job, or when other jobs didn't pan out as he'd hoped, or Chris was packing up and moving the family yet again, one thing she has never, ever doubted was his love for her.

"One time I said to him, I think we've missed so much babe," Chris recalled. "People ask me where I consider home, which is a hard question to answer. How would you answer that?

"He said, I would say home is wherever you are."

Bruce Arians: indirect romantic.

"I'm pretty sure that Super Bowl was the last thing on my bucket list," said Chris of watching her husband finally win an NFL championship as a head coach at 68 years old. "This was the thing that was there in the background our whole lives. That's something Bruce and I have been aiming for… for 50 years.

"Winning the Super Bowl after all these years, that doesn't happen very often. Not too many people make it to 50, either."

Well, Chris and Bruce Arians did both.

Sometimes the best things in life come to those who wait.

Chris and Bruce will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary in their favorite place this weekend with their favorite people in attendance. Congratulations to the happy couple!

back to top