Sirianni takes football seriously: Island grad lands as assistant coach with Spokane team

As a kid growing up in Mercer Island, Alex Sirianni wanted nothing more than to play football for Mercer Island High School.

As a kid growing up in Mercer Island, Alex Sirianni wanted nothing more than to play football for Mercer Island High School.

“Me and my buddies would be throwing a football around,” Sirianni said, “and all that we’d talk about was how we wanted to play under the lights on Friday nights in ‘The Jungle.’”

His childhood dream became a reality when he became a starter on the varsity team in 1998.

Sirianni currently spends his Saturday nights in a similar fashion: under the lights on a football field. But unlike his high school days, when he terrorized the opposing offense on the field, Sirianni now stands on the sidelines with a headset, calling plays as the defensive coordinator for the reigning AF2 champion, the Spokane Shock.

AF2 is the developmental league for the Arena Football League (AFL). While the immediate goal for the teams in the AF2 is to win games, the ultimate goal is for the players to move up and play in the AFL.

A 2001 Mercer Island graduate, Sirianni was recently inducted into the MIHS hall of fame.

During his high school days, Sirianni was a star linebacker for an outstanding Mercer Island varsity team. He also demonstrated leadership skills as a team captain his senior year.

After his decorated high school career he moved on to play at Anderson University in Anderson, Ind., where he started 32 of 34 games. He graduated with a degree in business and for the next three years worked as the full-time linebacker coach.

“I wasn’t really sure of what I wanted to do coming out of high school,” Sirianni said. “But once I was done playing football, I knew I wanted to coach. They needed a linebacker coach [at Anderson] and I was in the right place at the right time.”

When the offensive-line coach at Anderson was offered a job to work with the Spokane Shock, he took Sirianni with him. The rest, as they say, is history.

In Sirianni’s first year in the AF2, the Shock (9-4) is looking to repeat as AF2 champions.

Sirianni says what he enjoys most about his current job is working in a higher level of competition.

“I loved playing and coaching at Anderson, but I felt like the skill level in Division III football wasn’t really good enough,” he said.

“I don’t mean that in a bad way, but I just had a desire to coach guys that understood the game better with the physical capabilities to execute that knowledge.”

Dick Nicholl, the former Mercer Island football coach of 34 years, said that desire is something that Sirianni has had since his freshman year of high school.

As a ninth grader, Sirianni approached Nicholl with a couple of his friends and asked if they could practice with the varsity squad, knowing that the freshman team started a little later than the varsity. Nicholl allowed it, and over the next four years he got to know the player whom he calls “the ultimate team guy.”

“What I remember most about Alex is that he was a real bright-eyed kid who had a great desire to play,” Nicholl said.

“I could tell that with that kind of motivation and sparkle, he was going to succeed.”

Sirianni has a long-term goal of becoming a head coach in the AFL, although he will be the first to tell you that he is not yet ready.

“I’m not there yet, and I know it,” he said. “But in the next four to five years, I think I’ll be ready to be a head coach or a coordinator in the AFL.”

Sirianni will be making a homecoming of sorts when the Shock comes to Everett for its final regular season game on July 28. For more information call (509) 242-SHOCK (7462) or visit

Yu Nakayama is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.