INDIANAPOLIS – Bruce Arians has been honored with NFL Coach of the Year awards for his work with the Colts in 2012 and the Cardinals in 2014.
The award he was given Thursday night wasn't as high-profile, but to him, it meant even more.
Arians was presented with the Fritz Pollard Alliance's "Game Ball Award" in a ceremony at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Indianapolis. It recognized Arians for his on-field success in 2015 and his continued commitment in extending opportunities to minorities in the NFL. The organization is named after the league's first African-American coach.
Arians appreciated it greatly because of the individuals who chose him for the honor. He has a relationship that spans 40 years with John Wooten, the chairman of the organization who presented him the trophy at the ceremony. He also has a deep friendship with Charles Garcia, a member of the Fritz Pollard Alliance who Arians called "the greatest scout that's ever lived."
"I can't put into words what this means because of who's giving it to me," said Arians, who wrapped both men in hugs on stage. "This award means more to me than any I've ever gotten."
Arians' coaching staff is diverse, and in 2013 and 2014 it included a pair of African-American coordinators in Harold Goodwin and Todd Bowles. Bowles, the defensive coordinator during that span, was hired as the Jets' head coach prior to the 2015 season.
Arians helped develop the Bill Bidwill Coaching Fellowship, a program established to give recently-retired minority players a chance to gain experience with the Cardinals. Former Steelers Pro Bowl linebacker Levon Kirkland was the inaugural recipient and will head into the final year of his stint in 2016. Arians was also instrumental in hiring the first female coach in NFL history when Jen Welter was added as a training camp intern in 2015.
"You know him as the coolest coach in the NFL," Wooten told the audience while presenting the award. "I know him as just a guy who stands up for what's right, all the time."
The Cardinals have been consistently honored by the Fritz Pollard Alliance in recent years. Owner Bill Bidwill was given the Paul "Tank" Younger award for promoting diversity in 2010. General Manager Rod Graves earned the same award in 2011. Malik Boyd was named the NFC Scout of the Year by the Fritz Pollard Alliance in 2014.
Arians is the latest to join the group, and he took the recognition to heart.
"To have these guys honor me, it's rewarding," Arians said. "It's over the top."