By Grant Clark
Ty Satiacum knew the product could be better — both on and off the field.
It was during a casual poker game with some friends a couple years ago that he was introduced to the idea of playing semi-professional football. Just a few years removed from being a standout lineman at Spanaway Lake High School, Satiacum always had a love for the sport. That passion never truly went away, even though he had been removed from the game.
Because of this, it didn’t take much encouragement to get him to agree to go up to Bellingham in 2005 to once again step onto the gridiron.
The drive north took about two hours, but it didn’t take nearly as long for him to realize this wasn’t the brand of football he had remembered playing.
“It was strange because I hadn’t practiced,” said Satiacum, a member of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians. “I just showed up and I was on the field that day for a game. No one was really held accountable for anything. It wasn’t what I was used to.”
Satiacum bounced around between a handful of teams over the next few years, experiencing similar scenarios across the board. Discouraged, he thought maybe semi-pro football wasn’t for him.
Or maybe he just needed to take matters into his own hands.
Satiacum elected to go with the latter. The end results was the formation of the Puyallup Nation Kings.
With Satiacum playing the rare role as both owner and player, the franchise finished its third season strong by winning the Western Washington Football Alliance (WWFL) championship on August 15.
The trophy presentation at Sunset Chevrolet Stadium in Sumner following the Kings 17-6 victory over the Puget Sound Outlaws in the title game was both a celebration and a reflection for Satiacum.
“We built this slowly, but surely,” said Satiacum, a father of four sons and a newborn daughter. “A lot of people contributed to this. Everything has just snowballed from the start.”
The start came approximately four years ago. Motivated by the desire to create something the Puyallup Tribal community could rally behind and support, Satiacum started putting together the foundation for his start-up club.
However, knocking heads in the trenches with 300-pound linemen proved to be the easiest aspect of everything he went through. It was all the other details that were foreign to him. It became baptism by fire as he learned on the job.
“I really struggled with the administrative side of things that first year,” Satiacum said. “It was tough. There was no blueprint to turn to.”
What he did have was plenty of people willing to help, including his friends — Kings co-owners — Archie Cantrell and Joe McCloud. The Puyallup Tribe, which Cantrell and McCloud are also members of, became the team’s top sponsor, providing new uniforms and equipment. Chief Leschi High School allowed the squad access to its new stadium and weight room.
A little more than 40 players tried out for the squad during its inaugural season in 2013. There were even times the team couldn’t run a full scrimmage at practice due to lack of players, but it was a start.
“We were just trying to get everything lined up that first year,” Satiacum said, “but by the end of the season things started to click for us. We were getting the players who were dedicated to the team. We ended up advancing to the WWFL semi-finals that first year. One game shy of the championship game. It felt like we got the ball rolling.”
Fast forward two years and more than 100 players showed up for spring try-outs. The word was out. Satiacum’s franchise, after just two seasons, had gained such a positive reputation for how it was operated that the club was forced to turn away nearly 50 players to trim its final roster to 55.
With its new popularity, Satiacum has revised his original goals.
Sure, the mission remains to win football games, but he now sees the Kings as being something greater than just that.
“We have a lot of players who are right out of high school or a year or two removed from high school,” Satiacum said. “For whatever reasons they fell through the cracks with college recruiters when they played in high school. We want to be able to provide them with an opportunity to draw interest from colleges. We’ve put together a Hudl account and are going to be actively putting together videos for them and do what we can to help them get some looks. If we could help someone get a scholarship to college that would mean so much more than winning any championship.”
Satiacum also hopes to play a role in the evolution of semi-pro football in the Pacific Northwest. Early conversations have begun between the WWFL, Washington Football League and Pacific Football League about building a working relationship between the leagues.
“I want the Kings to be successful, but I want all the other semi-pro teams in the state to experience that too,” Satiacum said. “I want to see everyone working toward something bigger and positive because it’s something that can be achieved. We can change this for the better.”