Today, Kyle Stiffarm is married and lives in San Diego, where he helps broker deals as an accountant for Montbleau & Associates, a manufacturing firm specializing in architectural woodwork and furniture for large commercial buildings. The Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas and the Qualcomm Theater in San Diego are two recent projects.
But no matter the locale or the situation, he gets the query constantly: "Stiffarm? You must have played football?"
|Third in a series of feature stories CF.C is running in the 15 days leading to its 15th anniversary on August 15.|
After a stellar freshman season at Walla Walla Community College, Stiffarm found himself without a place to play when the school discontinued its program. That's when Mike Price invited the Clarkston native to walk on at Washington State. He toiled in complete anonymity for two years but never stopped battling, and eventually lettered in 2000 and 2001 as a backup safety and special teamer.
His name and that experience knocking heads in the Pac-10 has been nothing but positive for him in business life.
"In the construction world it's a real easy ice breaker," Stiffarm told CF.C in a recent phone conversation from San Diego. "In the construction world you deal with a bunch of big egos. They're construction guys. To them, I'm like the bean counter coming into the room.
Until they hear the name.
"They're like, "We can talk about the finance later. Let's talk about some football,'" he said. "... I've been able to use that to my advantage in this industry."
He proved as opportunistic during his playing days.
STIFFARM CIRCA 1999.
It was just the seventh win ever for the Cougs over the Trojans -- a feat made more notable because second-year freshman Matt Kegel was making his first-ever start in place of injured Jason Gesser.
"By the third or fourth quarter that place started clearing out," Stiffarm remembers. "It was a good feeling. This big crowd in L.A. was leaving."
Nearly as satisfying was beating Purdue in the 2001 Sun Bowl, also by a 33-27 margin. The win secured WSU a national top 10 finish, with a 10-2 record, and eased the pain of missing out on a trip to the National Championship. Only an Apple Cup loss and a cancelled game against Colorado after the 9/11 attacks prevented WSU from making a trip to the title game, Stiffarm said.
Stiffarm said he stays in contact with fellow members of WSU's defensive backfield from those days. He golfs frequently with Jason David and is helping him set up his own training facility. The Abdullah brothers, Hamza and Husain, are still his close friends.
"Never did we realize there would be six draft picks, a Super Bowl ring, a Super Bowl appearance and many, many years of NFL playing experience out of that group," Stiffarm noted.
The six draft picks were David, Lamont Thompson, Marcus Trufant, Erik Coleman, Karl Paymah and Hamza Abdullah. In addition, two other DBs from the early 2000s were NFL free agent signees, Billy Newman and Virgil Williams.
"That fact comes up a lot," he says of the Cougars' excellence in the secondary in those days. "We always talk about that. We have friends down here that played for USC and UCLA. That's kind of our little swagger we use against them whenever we're discussing our playing days."
"We came from one of the best defensive backfields to ever grace the Pac-10."
And as far as names go, it's hard to say any is more memorable than Stiffarm.