Long-time college coach Nick Rapone (ruh-pone) is in his fourth season with the Cardinals and fourth year in the NFL in 2016 after he joined Arizona as defensive backs coach on 2/5/13.
Rapone, a veteran of 37 seasons as a coach, including 30 as a collegiate assistant, joined the Cardinals in 2013 after spending the previous seven years (2006-12) at the University of Delaware as defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach.
Last season, the Cardinals finished the year with the NFL’s fifth-ranked defense. The unit ranked second in the NFL with 33 total takeaways and tied Kansas City for the league lead with six defensive TDs. CB Patrick Peterson and S Tyrann Mathieu were both selected to the Pro Bowl and were both named first-team All-Pro. It was Peterson’s fourth consecutive selection at CB and Mathieu’s first Pro Bowl.
In 2014, Peterson and CB Antonio Cromartie were both selected to the Pro Bowl. The Cardinals defense allowed just 18.7 points per game, the fifth lowest average in the league, while allowing 20 points or fewer in an NFL-high 13 games. Arizona’s defense allowed just 299 points, the first time the team has allowed fewer than 300 points in a season since 1994 (267).
With the Cardinals in 2013, Rapone helped a defense that finished as the NFL’s sixth-ranked overall unit and forced 30 takeaways, including 20 interceptions which tied for the fifth-best total in the NFL. Patrick Peterson made his second consecutive Pro Bowl at cornerback and was also named first-team AP All-Pro.
At Delaware, Rapone was a part of two NCAA national runner-up teams, including the 2010 season when he helped the Blue Hens to a 12-3 record and a share of the Colonial Athletic Association title. For his coaching efforts that season, Rapone was named the 2010 FootballScoop NCAA Division I FCS Coordinator of the Year. That season his defense led the nation in scoring (12.1 points per game), ranked fifth in total defense (280.7 yards allowed per game) and was 12th in rushing defense (105.3). The secondary included four All-CAA performers, including All-American selections Anthony Walters and Anthony Bratton at safety. The Hens also ranked ninth in the nation in passing efficiency (102.7), and the team's 21 interceptions were the third-highest total in the nation at the FCS level.
Rapone helped the Blue Hens to another outstanding season in 2007 when Delaware went 11-4 and advanced to the NCAA Division I FCS title game with quarterback Joe Flacco. The Blue Hens captured the Lambert Cup Trophy as the top team in the East and was named the ECAC Team of the Year.
A native of New Castle, PA, Rapone was an All-State receiver at New Castle High School prior to attending Virginia Tech where he was a four-year letterman for the Hokies (1974-77). While at Virginia Tech, he played with Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians in 1974 when Arians was a senior and Rapone was a freshman. Arians then served as a graduate assistant (1975-76) and running backs coach (1977) while Rapone played for the Hokies.
Rapone began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at the University of Pittsburgh in 1979 where he worked with the secondary for two seasons before serving as defensive backs coach at East Tennessee State (I-AA) from 1981-82. He reunited with Arians as part of his staff at Temple, coaching the Owls secondary for six seasons (1983-88) while also serving as defensive coordinator from 1985-88.
He returned to Pitt as defensive backs coach for four years (1989-92), doubling as defensive coordinator in 1992. Rapone then became the head coach at his alma mater, New Castle High School, for two seasons (1993-94). He returned to the college game in 1995 at then Divsion I-AA University of Connecticut under head coach Skip Holtz, serving as defensive coordinator and secondary coach for four seasons, leading the Huskies to the I-AA playoffs for the first time in school history in 1998. That squad was ranked No. 7 in the final The Sports Network Top 25 poll and was led by a defense that forced 29 turnovers on the season.
Rapone then returned for his second tenure at Temple and served as defensive backs coach and kickoff coverage coach for seven years (1999-2005). The Owls were one of only eight teams in the nation to rank in the top 20 in total defense in both 2001 and 2002.