November 15, 2017
By: Kristi Fulkerson
I received a message over the weekend from longtime Lehigh Valley Steelhawks head coach Chris Thompson telling me he would be resigning and taking on a new challenge. After seven seasons with Lehigh Valley, he was off to take the reigns of an AFL offense and help build a new franchise in Albany, NY. The team officially announced his hiring Tuesday in a press release saying Thompson has been named Director of Football Operations and Offensive Coordinator.
The NAL Coach of the Year went 54-35 in seven seasons with the Steelhawks, qualifying for playoffs each year. Over the course of his entire indoor coaching career Thompson has 122 wins and 11 postseason berths in 12 seasons. I am definitely sad to see him go, but excited for the new opportunity for him and his family.
I actually first met and covered one of Coach Thompson’s teams back in 2009 when he was offensive coordinator and assistant GM for the AIFA champion, Reading Express. A team he previously played quarterback for, Thompson worked under current Philadelphia Soul defensive coordinator Bernie Nowotarski before taking the head coaching reigns the following season. It was a pleasure working with him then and even moreso since.
It’s been fun having a chance to pick his brain about the indoor game and strategy, hear him get excited about new players or big games, and it was also evidence how passionate he was about his job. He has a great family — and let me speak from experience, any wife of a football coach is a saint, LeeAnn especially, who went into labor during a 2015 home game. If I remember correctly, she had left PPL Center in the second half of a game versus Richmond and headed to the hospital in Lancaster, PA (nearly 1.5 hours away). I noticed she wasn’t in the crowd late in the game but didn’t think anything of it. When it was time for my usual postgame interview with Chris, he was nowhere to be found. I was told he was off to the hospital and instead interviewed his defensive coordinator, Bill Sellars to wrap up the broadcast. As I got my stuff around to leave PPL Center, Chris still was pacing the hallway of the arena and staff members were rushing to find the driver of the Raiders bus, which was blocking Coach Thompson’s car. In the end, he did make it to the hospital in time to see his third child, Julian Jaxon, being born. But that’s just one of the many moments I’ll remember. That and beating him pretty badly in the Steelhawks media game this past spring.
The 2017 NAL Franchise of the Year is now in search of a new head honcho. On Monday, Steelhawks General Manager Mike Clark said they had already interviewed three candidates with two more scheduled later in the week. The third head coach in franchise history is expected to be announced with a press conference very soon.
While Albany is still searching for a team name (the public vote just ended and a winner should be announced in December) — they certainly made a solid choice with adding Chris Thompson to the staff. Best of luck, Coach Thompson — & no, you can’t take quarterback Warren Smith, Jr. with you! (Mike Clark made me say that.)