Adam Shackleford’s 2022 has been a sequel to his main story.
His sequel doesn’t have him roaming the sidelines like he did for 26 seasons, but that is by design.
A coach who was a commanding presence on the field, Shackleford has headed championship teams and is the only head coach in the history of the Indoor Football League to take multiple franchises to the United Bowl.
The main story ended in 2017 when the Spokane Empire folded, but it was his 2010 firing from the Shock that threatened to rip out his Spokane roots.
When the Shock moved to the Arena Football League from af2, the Shock decided to pass over the winningest coach in the franchise’s history.
“It was tough, devastating,” Shackleford said. “I just had my second child six weeks before that and I was a 32-year-old football coach out of work with my family established in Spokane.”
That led to him bouncing between Spokane and Tri-Cities for six years after he was hired as the head coach of the Tri-Cities Fever.
“I spent half my kids’ lives gone for six, seven months at a time after the Spokane job in 2009,” he said. “So, this allowed me to stay at home, be involved, not have to watch T-ball and soccer on FaceTime, and just get reconnected in their lives as much as possible.”
The former Spokane Shock and Empire head coach is the director of player personnel and senior offensive consultant for the Indoor Football League’s Frisco Fighters – from his main base in Spokane, his home.
For the past five years, he’s done color commentary alongside Dennis Patchin on SWX.
“It was an opportunity to stay involved, to still recruit players,” he said. “I think I was a good coach. I think I was a better recruiter. I think we won a lot of our games because at times we just had better players.”
With Frisco flying into the playoffs, Shackleford has been instrumental in the Fighters’ 2022 success, which continues Friday night when they host the Iowa Barnstormers in the first round.
Shackleford has put his fingerprints all over Frisco without stepping foot inside the Lone Star State – a boon for him and his family.
“I think it starts with his character,” Frisco head coach Billy Back said. “You know the type of person he is at home, type of person he is on the field. His philosophy with football, he sticks by it.”
Back was Shock head coach between 2020-21.
Back has known fellow Ohioan Shackleford since 2001-02, when the latter was an offensive line coach for the Cincinnati Storm.
It wasn’t until 2010, when Back was the head coach for the Cincinnati Commandos, that he first shook Shackleford’s hand.
“We were at Fricker’s, I believe, in Mason, Ohio, his hometown and 10 minutes away from my hometown,” Back said. “We sat down had some Fricker’s wings and some good cold beers. It was great.”
That friendship has lasted more than a decade, with Back making time when he is in Spokane for a few late-night football discussions, lasting hours, at Shackleford’s house over good whiskey.
When Back was hired in Spokane by owner Sam Adams, it was at the recommendation of Shackleford, who thought Back could direct the team to success even beneath questionable ownership.
“He told me it was opening, but he warned me about who the owner was,” Back said. “And he said, ‘I am not going to do it, but I think you could maybe tame the beast. I am not going to work for Sam Adams.’ He wouldn’t get on the coaching staff then, otherwise he would have been the head coach.”
According to Shackleford, he knew of Adams and the allegations floating around his business dealings, so no deal was agreed upon with Back to be on his staff, at least not in 2020.
“I’ve always wanted to work with Billy,” Shackleford said. “Even when he was a player, a young coach. He’s very good at what he does.
“He’s a guy that’s always going to be considered as one of the top couple names anytime a job comes up.”
After Back left Spokane, he was quickly scooped up by the Fighters. Shortly after, Back wrangled in Shackleford.
“I could tell he still had passion for it and wanted to be involved in it,” Back said. “I told him we had the Germain family and we’re managed by the Dallas Stars down here; it is a pretty solid group of people. They’re morally correct.”
Back said Shackleford is a remarkable friend who he has looked up to and leaned on for advice.
His attention and dedication to the Fighters has been immeasurable. The two have discussions about the team with Shackleford offering his two cents – sometimes resulting in an objection – but Shackleford is delighted to have his voice heard.
He is also glad that he doesn’t have to make the final decisions.
Back has made the right decisions this year as the Fighters went 14-2 to earn the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. They’ve clinched home field for the playoffs minus the championship game – if they make it – which will be held in Las Vegas.
Shackleford is in Frisco this week for the IFL playoff opener. He said he was hoping to attend Friday’s Shock auction that will feature all of the gear, trophies and memorabilia that were left behind when the IFL terminated the franchise and former owner Adams left Spokane.
But Shock memories haven’t dampened his excitement of football moving forward. Shackleford said he’ll stay in Frisco for any games that may follow – but don’t expect to see him leading the charge.
“Coach Back has a tremendous coaching staff,” he said. “I’m not going to get in the way. I’m just here to help where I can and enjoy the breaking down of film and doing other things with this great group of coaches.”
That means no booming locker room pep talks or a six-month expedition that forced his family to adjust to life without dad at home.
Those sacrifices – as he turned every indoor football team he coached into a weekly headache for the opposition – earned him a nomination on July 11 to join the IFL Hall of Fame for the class of 2022.
Back backed up his peer’s resume by reiterating his impact on the indoor football field, praising him for his IFL success in what he called the hardest league to win.
Ten other nominees were in the mix, including his past players Carl Sims and Houston Lillard.
“I am extremely honored,” Shackleford said. “You know, I put a lot of time in the IFL and have crossed paths with all these guys over the years.
“Just tremendous players, high-character players. Just some very deserving people.”
On Monday, the IFL announced that Shackleford missed the cut this season. Sims – a former Empire player – will be inducted posthumously
“I’ve been an advocate and I’ve pushed hard for Carl,” Shackleford said. “He should have been inducted, in my opinion, two years ago.”
Sims – one of the top wide receivers in IFL history – was killed in a 2017 shooting in downtown Spokane near Sprague Avenue and Washington Street.
In Sims’ 2016 Empire season, he amassed 822 yards and 20 touchdowns.
He finished his nine-year storied career second in IFL all-time receiving yards (5,046) and third in career receiving touchdowns (111).
Shackleford said that he voted for Sims, not just because of his explosiveness on the field, but because he may have been the most likable teammate he had coached.
“There wasn’t a teammate (across any of nine franchises), there wasn’t a person in a locker room that had anything bad to say about Carl Sims,” Shackleford said.
As soon as Sims’ induction was announced, Shackleford said that he was thrilled – emotional, but thrilled.
“I’m very proud,” Shackleford said. “I feel like I had a hand in him getting nominated. I pushed for it. If I would have gotten in before him, there would have been some guilt and that is true. I told my wife this needed to happen.
“It was a happy day for everybody, but also brings back a lot of emotion.”
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