TAMPA, Fla. -- Long before he won a Super Bowl as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer, head coach Bruce Arians was a Virginia Tech Hokie.
Arians, 68, played quarterback for Virginia Tech in the early 1970s. He went on to be a coach on the team.
"It was very different, you know, we were not affiliated with a conference back then, we were a Southern Independent," Arians said during a press conference prior to the Super Bowl.
Arians said those Hokie teams were, in a way, like a melting pot with teammates from cities like Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York, and Atlanta. But like many college football programs back then, the Hokies were not very racially diverse.
"We had very few minority players, black players," Arians recalled. "One happened to be my roommate, James Barber."
Barber's sons Ronde and Tiki grew to be football stars at both the University of Virginia and in the NFL.
Just by sharing a room, Arians and Barber made history of their own.
As told by Arians in his autobiography, it was the first time a white player and a Black player had ever roomed together at Virginia Tech. They even hung a sign on their dorm room door, with the words: "Salt and pepper Incorporated."
"No one had any thought about race issues particularly. We were just all football players," Dr. Charles Martin, the co-captain of that Virginia Tech team, said. "You were as likely to congratulate the Black guy as the white guy. I didn't even think about it."
After Arians took his last snap, he transitioned from player to coach.
"I was kind of an older guy on that team anyway, being married all four years I was there," he said.
Hokies head coach Jimmy Sharpe made coaching look easy.
"Jimmy taught me how to make players believe that they're gonna win every single game even though they probably didn't have a chance, cause we stunk," he said.
Arians learned that mutual respect was the best way to coach players who used to be his teammates.
His night job also helped.
"I was also a bartender at their favorite bar, so I could keep my eye on them," he said.
It's been a long time since Arians left Blacksburg and became one of the NFL's great coaches. But he said Virginia Tech is always close to his heart.
"I love the Hokies," he said. "I'll be a Hokie for life. I won't be anything else for life, but I'll be a damn Hokie for life. I know that."