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Former Shock coach Chris Siegfried jumps off the coaching carousel

Former Spokane head coach Chris Siegfried played a big role in the Shock’s championship inaugural season. (Colin Mulvany)
Former Spokane head coach Chris Siegfried played a big role in the Shock’s championship inaugural season. (Colin Mulvany)

The well-traveled Chris Siegfried is a homebody these days. Home is Orlando, where the coach who helped make arena football an instant success in Spokane in 2006 is no longer a coach. He sells real estate and helps with the family cigar/tobacco business, but his most important job is being a full-time husband and father.

“My stress level is down,” Siegfried said in a recent phone interview. “After I left Spokane for Kansas City in 2007, those were the last two seasons that my family came with me. We bought the (cigar) business in 2007 and my wife has been here in Orlando running it ever since.

“Bouncing around with the instability of arena football, it just became too difficult with my wife and kids and all the crap of the (2012) labor dispute. It became difficult to justify staying in the game.”

Siegfried had been in the game – and often on the road – for nearly two decades. He began his pro career with AFL Orlando in 1992 and Miami in 1993. He played professionally in Taiwan before joining CFL Baltimore in 1995.

Siegfried then worked for an American Gladiators style dinner show in Orlando and met his future wife, Tammi. He also found time to be an extra in “The Waterboy,” serving as the Michigan towel boy who gets absolutely clotheslined. He said the scene took nine painful takes and nearly an hour.

He played receiver/defensive back for arenafootball2 Augusta (Ga.) in 2000 and entered coaching as offensive coordinator for af2 Macon (Ga.) in 2001. He was head coach at af2 Cape Fear from 2002-04 and stayed in that capacity when the team relocated to South Georgia.

Siegfried was fired after South Georgia’s 2-8 start to the 2005 season. By then, the Siegfrieds had purchased a home in Orlando and his next move was unclear. He’d never been to Washington before but was intrigued by the expansion Spokane Shock.

“When (then owner) Brady (Nelson) and (general manager) Adam (Nebeker) walked in the door, I was surprised I was the oldest guy in the room, but I really enjoyed the process with Brady,” Siegfried said. “His eagerness to build a team was infectious.”

The Shock started 4-0 but lost to visiting Bakersfield 52-20 in Week 5. Siegfried knew Spokane had to get better in three positions: Quarterback, offensive line and defensive back. Enter Kyle Rowley, Ed Ta’amu and former Eastern Washington Eagle Isaiah Trufant. Spokane lost just once the rest of the season, beat Bakersfield in the playoffs and crushed Green Bay in the af2 title game.

“Chris was always a stickler for small details,” said Travis Crusenberry, current Shock defensive coordinator who played for Siegfried at Cape Fear and was on Siegfried’s staff in Spokane and Kansas City.

The offense, featuring Rowley and receivers Charles Frederick and Antwone Savage, became a consistent force. Siegfried noted that the talent level was so deep Raul Vijil often was the fourth receiver.

The defense held five opponents to 30 points or less and gave up just 34 to Green Bay.

“Isaiah is the best defensive back to play arena ball, 1 or 2,” Siegfried said. “He would play man coverage but it would be off coverage, he gave them a huge cushion. I pulled him aside and he said if he covered tight they’d never throw the ball his way.”

Siegfried soon left Spokane to become offensive coordinator at AFL Kansas City. At the time, the AFL was a sizable step up in pay and talent level from af2.

“Not knowing what the future held it was the right choice,” he said. “Knowing what happened the next few years it was the dumbest choice I’ve ever made. I had aspirations of being an AFL head coach.”

That required a few more detours. He piloted af2 Arkansas for a couple seasons before joining AFL Jacksonville as offensive coordinator in 2010. He landed the head coaching job with AFL Pittsburgh in 2011 and the Power went 9-9.

He compiled a talented roster in 2012 but the season veered off course before the opening kickoff. Facing labor unrest, Pittsburgh’s owner released every player hours prior to the opener against Orlando. A few players crossed the picket line and played but the Power never got on track.

Siegfried was fired after Pittsburgh dropped to 2-8. It went from bad to worse when Siegfried was fired as Orlando’s offensive coordinator three games into the 2013 season.

That marked the end of his coaching days, aside from helping son Kody, who is entering high school, and daughter Baylee.

“I don’t regret the journey, giving up what I gave up to go play and eventually go coach,” he said. “With both kids at the ages they are now, having a stable home life is more important than anything.”