Mechanim rotation issue on model imported from 3dsmax

I know this may sound like “the same old story” because there is a known and well discussed issue with 3DS Max and FBX export in Unity.
But I have a problem that defies all logic and reason and would surely like some new perspective on it.
I am working on a Unity Project (Unity 4.15f) and have a model created in 3DS Max with animations.
Due to the strange (known) problem with Max animated models and the FBX export in Unity, I chose to attach the model to a GameObject (Sphere) that I can manipulate.

Here is the (C#) code for an Update method attached to the GameObject:

private Animator EnemyAnimator;

void Update () {
	//standard movement
	if (Vector3.Distance(transform.position, player.transform.position) > _contactDistance) {
		_currentSpeed = movementSpeed * Time.deltaTime;
		//idle animation
		EnemyAnimator.SetInteger("AttackMode", 0);  //experiment with using an Enumerator for the string
	}  else {  //we are close enough to threaten
		EnemyAnimator.SetInteger("AttackMode", 1);
		//speed up
		_currentSpeed = attackingSpeed * Time.deltaTime;
	if (Vector3.Distance(transform.position, player.transform.position) < _attackDistance) {
		EnemyAnimator.SetInteger("AttackMode", 2);

	_currentSpeed = (inContact) ? (movementSpeed * Time.deltaTime) * -4.5f : _currentSpeed;
	//unless we are in contact with the player
	transform.position = Vector3.MoveTowards(transform.position, player.transform.position, _currentSpeed);


As you can see, I am using the Mechanim (new to me).
Here is the problem - as shown in the screenshots - these work exactly as expected with ONE EXCEPTION.
When they are first Instantiated in the world, the rotation is all wrong (see screenshot). Once I trigger the change in animation, it all continues to work.
HOWEVER, simply calling the “SetInteger” in an Awake or Start function has no effect. This is very, very puzzling.
In Debug mode - with the game paused - I can rotate (on the z axis) one of the objects but when the game resumes from pause it immediately snaps back to that weird (facing down) orientation. The orientation is exactly the ‘troublesome’ issue with 3DS Max exported (FBX) models in Unity.

First, I thought the problem was the ‘Rotation’ parameter of the ‘Instantiate’ call I use to create an instance of the Prefab.
But I found that modifying that (which is currently set to Quanterion.Identity) seems to have no effect.

Thanks, in advance.

Note: This model was created using 3DS Max 9, exported as FBX. All other static models exported in the same fashion have no issues. It is only with animations applied that the model appears rotated. We have searched and searched for answers and so far all suggestions on how to export the model with rotations preset, or attach a dummy object, rotate the dummy, then export, have failed.

Open to any and all suggestions. I’ll try any combination of settings and export that you all can suggest.

Please help us fix this so that we can finish our very first game! :slight_smile: