The school sits on championship horse farm territory, appropriate for the new Stallions…or Thoroughbreds… (The students will get a vote on their first day of school.)
The new campus is state of the art. Incoming head football coach Brian Landis says, “I’ll tell you what, there isn’t a nicer facility in the state. Our weight room is huge, we have the same equipment as UK, our field house is beautiful and very functional. It’s like a small college.”
The school is home to different academies, which will allow students to choose a specific path, similar to college. “Our wall to wall academy structure will ensure that every student experiences a focused and intentional curriculum of their choosing,” says Lester Diaz, Douglass’s inaugural principal.
Landis describes Lexington as a “beautiful place with southern appeal and full of great people. The people are passionate about their sports teams, and are very supportive. I am proud to be a Lexington native.”
And in August, in the South, what’s on everybody’s mind is Friday Night Lights and high school football.
Meet Coach Brian Landis
Coach Landis comes to Douglass from UK, and EKU prior to that.
“The grind was fine, I didn’t mind the grind at all. I loved it,” says Landis on his time spent working 100 hours a week in college football.
He played at Georgetown College and was part of the 2000 national championship team.
After graduating from Georgetown, he became a coach there and continued his career at the college for the next 13 years. In 2015, Landis moved over to Eastern Kentucky University before heading to UK for the 2016 season.
Among his proudest accomplishments are “winning a National Title at Georgetown, taking UK to overtime when I was at EKU, and going to a bowl game at UK.”
“In 1999 we lost the National Championship game after leading 20-0 at the half,” he recalls. “The next year, we made it back to the championship and played the very same team. Ironically, we won the game 20-0. We even double deferred (kicked off to start both halves). It was probably one of the greatest, boldest coaching moves I’ve been a part of by Coach Cronin,” (his mentor).
“He trusted in our defense and we went out and stoned them at the 20 with a 3 and out, our offense got the ball back at midfield and scored to put the game out of reach. It was demoralizing for the opponent. The season was magical. We knew what we did the year before wasn’t good enough. We set a goal, worked the details of the plan daily, stayed the course, and trusted in the process. The end result was a National title. A very special season with men who are very successful now. It is no coincidence. We didn’t allow average behaviors or people in our program. What [we] accomplished was a credit to the staff for taking us to a place where we could not take ourselves. Teaching us how to be winners.”
“The three coaches I have worked for are all very different,” he says. “Coach Stoops taught me the value of staying the course, fighting through adversity. Coach Hood taught me the value of relationships and the importance of having core values. His players absolutely loved him. Coach Cronin, my boss and coach at Georgetown, is my mentor. He probably has made the biggest impact on my life. He has more wins than anyone in this state, has coached in five National Title games, and is set to be the next President of the AFCA (American Football Coaches Association). His program is what I hope ours looks like in a few years. He stresses the importance of character, discipline, and accountability. He wins with class and his players represent the program in outstanding fashion. It truly is amazing what he has built down there.”
“The relationships with the players and coaches” are among his favorite football memories. Of course, there are others. “My worst memory was when we were ranked number 1 in the nation and lost in the first round of the playoffs on a kickoff return for a TD with one minute left in the game. That was the best team I have ever been around. They absolutely loved each other. We were good enough to win a National Title that year. I hated it for those kids. Another miserable experience was when I was at EKU and we took Kentucky to overtime and lost. We had them beat at commonwealth. They converted on 4th and 5 for a game tying touchdown. Our DB, one of my all time favorite kids, played the man as well as you could play and it was a perfect ball thrown. When they got us to overtime, I knew we were in trouble. We were running out of gas. But the good news is, if we had beat them, I probably wouldn’t be working for them the next year!”
Balance is key though. Landis acknowledges, “You get to the point where you have to ask yourself: do I want to be a better father or do I want to be a better coach.”
“One of my professional goals was to become a head coach. I loved coaching college, the atmosphere, the places we went, the people I worked with. But at the end of the day, I was missing out on my own kids’ accomplishments. I felt I had a lot to give back to the city I have lived in for fifteen years. When they approached me about the job, I was blown away at how committed our administration was to building something special. Everything is first class. First class administrators and first class facilities.”
At Douglass, he welcomes the challenge of getting a new program off the ground, explaining that he’s “a firm believer that nothing good comes from ease. I love the challenge of taking 83 different players from three different programs and creating our own culture with them. We are trying to get kids to do things our way. We have a plan and the kids are starting to buy in to it.”
“It doesn’t matter if you’re coaching little league, or if you’re coaching in the NFL, ball is ball. It’s all the same. You just got a little bit better kid at a different level.”
He knows, “The kids will achieve to the level you demand.”
The top three things he demands of his players, “Effort, positive attitude, and toughness (EAT). We tell them to EAT!”
“The ability to do that over and over again, that’s what discipline is,” says Landis.
“I have to grow them from a character standpoint,” Landis says.
He wants his players to be able to wear their Douglass Football shirt around the community and people to see and think ‘Wow, that is an awesome kid right there. That kid has character and class.’ He believes that if others in the community can see that in his players, then they will go on and do great things in their lives.”
“Watching kids grow and teaching them how to have success inspires me. I have had the successes of a lifetime already, winning a National Title as a player and one as an assistant coach. It is the most unbelievable feeling in the world. The joy I was able to witness coming from those players’ hearts was a feeling I am addicted to. I want every kid that plays for me to have that feeling. I want them to experience excellence, I want them to feel the pain of discipline and reap the rewards of their work. I want them to do great things when they leave me, I want them be prepared to handle anything that life throws at them.”
“I want every kid who leaves here to leave a better version of himself,” Landis says.
Friday Night Lights had it right.
Check out the preview with the basketball coach here.