Sioux City native, former arena football player, Pfizer pharmaceutical sales rep, head coach of the Sioux City Bandits, husband, father: These are all hats that Erv Strohbeen wears on a daily basis. Although if you ask him, he’s most proud of his Midwest roots.
Strohbeen didn’t start football until his freshman year at West High. He grew up playing and loving baseball from a young age. Although he got recruited for baseball by several smaller area schools, Strohbeen attended Wayne State College with intentions of playing both sports. However, when he got there, the coaches made it clear to him that he should focus on football. Strohbeen is best known now for playing on the offensive line, but he started at Wayne as an offensive tackle and played several other positions on the line, such as guard, center and even long snapper.
With an exercise science degree in hand, Strohbeen came back to Sioux City and took an internship at Siouxland Acceleration during the summer of 1999. Sioux City, at the time, was testing the market to have their own indoor football team by hosting a game between two visiting cities. The turnout for that game was so great that Kerry Ecklund of the original IFL decided to start a team in Sioux City; thus the Sioux City Attack was born. Siouxland Acceleration wanted to get contracted to train all of the Attack players, so Strohbeen's boss trained him to try out for the Attack. The team liked what they saw in Strohbeen and he became one of the very first players to sign with Sioux City’s newest squad.
The Attack was renamed to the Bandits in 2001 and Strohbeen played for Sioux City until 2008. During that time, Strohbeen got married, started a family and got a new job. He married his wife Amanda in the fall of 2001 and they now have three kids: Tyson, 16; Carson, 13; and Ashlyn, 11. Jarrod DeGeorgia (now offensive coordinator for the Bandits) was the head coach at the time and convinced Strohbeen, a former college teammate, to join the ranks of coach for the 2009 season. That year, Strohbeen coached the offensive line, later adding the defensive line to his jurisdiction. In 2012, he officially became the head coach of the Sioux City Bandits – the position he is still in today – alongside DeGeorgia, Marlon Lobban and John Zevenbergen. Coaching with these men is one of Strohbeen’s favorite parts of the job.
"We fight like brothers," Strohbeen said. "But I wouldn't want to work with anyone else. I get to work with my best friends every day when I come here."
Strohbeen's and DeGeorgia’s relationship dates back to 1995, when Strohbeen was DeGeorgia's center at Wayne State. Zevenbergen was added to the mix when he played with both Strohbeen and DeGeorgia on the Bandits squad in the early 2000s. Ever since they have all started coaching, they have been the familiar trio on the field that Bandits fans have gotten so used to seeing year after year. This year, Strohbeen's former player Lobban joins the coaching staff with command of the defense. All of these men are familiar with each other, their coaching styles, and most of all, the game of football.
In addition to his staff, Strohbeen makes an effort to invest in the lives of his players while they’re here. Forming relationships with those involved in the game is another part of his job he enjoys. The Bandits have been fortunate by not having a lot of turnover over the years, both in coaches and in players, something Strohbeen's proud of. He makes a point in caring for his players and making sure they’re involved in the community. Players and fans alike get mutual benefits from connecting with each other: The fans feel like they know the players more and can form relationships with them and the players feel more welcomed into the Sioux City community. This is something Strohbeen loves; being from Sioux City, he has a deep care and commitment to this city and the people here.
"I love playing in front of the fans of Sioux City," Strohbeen said. "Even when we had the Sioux City Auditorium, I think it held 2750 [people], and we would fill that thing [every game]."
Sioux City has one of the best home-field advantages in the CIF. Strohbeen has players from other teams occasionally tell him that they love the atmosphere in the Tyson, which in turn gives him bragging rights when it comes to recruiting.
"The fans in Sioux City are second-to-none," Strohbeen said. "We have some good rivalries in place: Quad Cities will be a good one, Omaha, Salina. We love playing in front of these fans and we have the best fans in the league."
Strohbeen looks forward to this season and all it has to bring. He's especially proud of the family-friendly atmosphere the organization has created over the years. Kids can come down on the field after games to interact with the players, and this is something Strohbeen loves to see. He's excited to see what his roster will do this year and to see the fans show up to support the Bandits once again. However, he wants to see some new fans this year, coming out to see what this team is all about.
"There are still a lot of people that don’t know what the Sioux City Bandits are," Strohbeen said. "We’re a professional football team. The guys most likely have played college football, they’re trying to get to the CFL, the NFL, the arena league. Or maybe they’re on the back-end and just want to continue their careers. Or they’re local kids that just want to continue to play football a few years post-college."
Strohbeen has been involved with Sioux City's arena team since its inception. As for his playing days, he's thankful to the Bandits organization for giving him the chance to continue playing the game he learned to love… after baseball, of course.
"When I played my last game at Wayne, I was just heartbroken," Strohbeen said. He was thinking that would be the last time he'd ever play an actual football game. "I was lucky enough to have them put this team in Sioux City and give me an opportunity to play for nine more years."