The Spokane Shock on Wednesday officially hired Chris Siegfried, landing a head coach with an extensive background as an Arena League player and coach, not to mention a football-related movie credit on his resume.
Siegfried will lead the Shock, an arenafootball2 expansion team that begins play next spring. He has a 37-21 career mark, the third-best winning percentage among active af2 coaches. He guided teams into the playoffs three times in four years as a coach.
He was Spokane’s first choice and apparently the feeling was mutual.
“It starts with the ownership and majority owner Brady Nelson is the guy that put it all together,” Siegfried said. “Brady and his partners are quality people. The decision for me to come here was really made simple with them running a professional organization.
“Once we came up here and saw Spokane, we fell in love with the area. It’s a win-win situation for us.”
In a league driven by entertainment value, well, Siegfried has some experience there, too.
“I was a stunt player in the movie ‘The Water Boy,’ there were about 30 of us,” Siegfried said. “I was the guy that got clotheslined – the Michigan towel boy. We tried it a couple times and it didn’t look good, so finally I knew the guy that was hitting me and I told him we had to do it full speed. Nine takes. That was a long hour.”
Siegfried, 36, was head coach of the Cape Fear franchise that debuted in 2002. In three seasons, the Fayetteville, N.C.,-based team won two division titles and made three playoff appearances.
The franchise moved in 2005, becoming the South Georgia Wildcats. There was an ownership change just after midseason and Siegfried was fired the following day. The Wildcats were 2-8 at the time.
“We’d talked several times and exchanged e-mails and I asked him to send me three game tapes, one with his team blowing out somebody, one a close win and one a close loss so I could see what he was like in those situations,” Nelson said.
“He sent me four tapes and they were of his teams beating the teams of the four previous af2 coaches of the year award winners. That is what I was looking for, someone to step up and say, ‘I’m the best coach,’ with the confidence and swagger. He was just showing that, ‘I’ve beaten everybody before and I’ll do it again.’ “
Siegfried was offensive coordinator for the af2 Macon Knights in 2001, an expansion squad that made the playoffs. He was a receiver/defensive back for the 2000 Augusta (Ga.) Stallions of the af2.
A three-year starter at NCAA Division II Millersville (Penn.) University, Siegfried played for the AFL Orlando Predators in 1992, AFL Miami Hooters in 1993, had a short stint in an international league that quickly folded in 1994, then joined the CFL Baltimore Stallions for a short time in 1995.
From 1996-98 he worked at an American Gladiators’ style dinner show in Orlando.
“I met my wife there,” said Siegfried, who has a young son and daughter. “We were actually full-time contenders fighting the gladiators.”
Siegfried called af2 “a great sport. The talent level is going up every single year. People are close to the action. It’s a lot of scoring and non-stop action. It would be very hard to go to a boring arena league game. A low-scoring game would be 45-42.”
Siegfried will make $53,000 on a one-year contract – all coaches and players contracts in af2 are one-year deals. Teams generally have two full-time assistants that make $25,000 combined. Siegfried is close to hiring his former assistants – Travis Crusenberry as line coach and Troy Biladeaux as defensive coordinator. Teams also typically have an unpaid coach or two that help out.
Aside from relocating his family from Florida and finalizing his staff, Siegfried’s focus will be compiling a roster. That heats up when all af2 players become free agents Nov. 1.
“The key will be to try to get half the roster with veteran players,” Siegfried said. “I fully expect to have a competitive team.”
Roughly 35 players will be invited to a two-week camp. Teams carry 21 active players and 19 suit up for each game.
“In our league, the coach is probably the main recruiting source,” Nelson said. “We’re going to lean on his experience.”
Ticket sales have been encouraging, Nelson said. “The front-row seats have been selling like fire.”
There will be an open tryout Saturday at 8 a.m. at the Spokane Soccer Club. Team officials ask that interested players have some college experience. Nelson said there will probably be one or two more tryouts at a later date.
The af2 schedule isn’t set, but Spokane, which will play home games at the Arena, is expected to open March 31 or April 1.