Former Hokie Nick Rapone talks about coaching with Bruce Arians


TAMPA, Fl (WFXR) — Nick Rapone begins his second season as safeties coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020.

He tutored a safety unit that overcame a slew of injuries to help Tampa Bay’s defense shift from the 23rd-ranked defense through eight games to the eighth-best in the NFL over the final eight games (Weeks 10-17). Second-year safety Jordan Whitehead ranked tied for second on the team in run tackles with 25 on the year, helping to lead the NFL’s top-ranked run defense.

Rapone was the defensive backs coach for the Arizona Cardinals from 2013-17. While in Arizona, Rapone worked with cornerback Patrick Peterson, a five-time Pro Bowl choice and a two-time first-team AP All-Pro selection (2013, 2015). Rapone also coached safety Tyrann Mathieu, who earned Pro Bowl and first-team AP All-Pro distinction in 2015.

During Rapone’s time with Arizona, the team’s pass defense was among the best in the NFL, holding opponents to a 61.0 completion percentage, the ninth-lowest mark in the league, and an 83.2 passer rating, the sixth-lowest in the NFL. The Cardinals were also one of the best teams in the NFL at intercepting passes, with the team’s 86 interceptions ranking third during that span and their 14 interceptions returned for touchdowns tying for the league best.

Prior to joining the Cardinals, Rapone spent over 30 years as an assistant coach at the collegiate level. From 2006-12, he worked as the defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach at Delaware, earning the 2010 FootballScoop NCAA Division I FCS Coordinator of the Year after the Blue Hens led the FCS in scoring defense and ranking fifth in total defense.

A native of New Castle, Pennsylvania, Rapone played collegiately at Virginia Tech (1974-77). While with the Hokies, he played with Buccaneers Head Coach Bruce Arians in 1974, when Rapone was a freshman and Arians was a senior. Arians then worked as a graduate assistant (1975-76) and running backs coach (1977) while Rapone played.

Rapone began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at the University of Pittsburgh (1979-80), before going on to East Tennessee State (1981-82). Rapone reunited with Arians at Temple, coaching the Owls’ secondary for six seasons (1983-88), while also serving as the team’s defensive coordinator (1985-88). Following his time under Arians at Temple, Rapone returned to Pittsburgh (1989-92), then spent two seasons at New Castle (Pa.) High School (1993-94), before four seasons at Connecticut (1995-98). Rapone returned to Temple for a second stint in 1999, working as the school’s secondary coach until his tenure at Delaware.

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