Brad Lord has been the head football coach at Foundation Academy since 2008, building the program through a combination of success on the field and a unique marketing savvy off of it.
Even while doing an interview for an article about him, Brad Lord can’t help but talk up others.
One moment it is his players, past and present, the next it is his coaches. Soon, he is championing the administration at Foundation Academy.
“I have had nothing but support here at Foundation Academy — they always have supported football,” Lord says proudly.
It is fitting, because the veteran coach of the Lions’ football program is known for his ability to market his program to local media and his student-athletes to college coaches. Lord’s reputation in those arenas nearly matches his reputation for his booming presence and for the on-field success he has had at Foundation Academy — and there has been plenty of that under his watch.
But before he was roaming the sidelines in Winter Garden, Lord, 57, had a number of careers — chef, caddy and sales for Sysco. It was the last of those that seems to have had the most profound impact on the way he runs his program.
“I was good in sales,” Lord said. “I’ve taken stuff I’ve learned there and put it toward (coaching).”
Now, a decade after he took over a third-year program with four wins in its first two seasons, Lord’s program is readying to play its first home games on its new on-campus facility and is coming off a 7-3 season.
New England roots
Brad Lord grew up in Marblehead, Massachusetts, where he played his high-school football as a linebacker for Marblehead High under Bruce Jordan when he wasn’t otherwise getting into trouble.
“I wasn’t the nicest boy back then,” Lord said with a laugh.
Talented enough to play at the collegiate level, Lord bounced around between playing at Ithaca College and Bridgewater State, but did not graduate. After his playing career ended, he returned to his hometown to coach at Marblehead but eventually gravitated toward a more stable income.
Lord worked in the Boston-area service industry as a chef. That was what brought him to Florida in 1990, when he joined a friend who had come to the Sunshine State to help open restaurants.
Years later, Lord had started a family with his wife, Amy, and they had three children — Riley, a student at the University of Florida; Dani, a student at Florida Gulf Coast University; and Brady, an eighth-grader at Foundation Academy.
As he settled into life as a father, Lord found two things tugging at him — a desire to return to the sidelines as a coach and a desire to complete his education.
Thanks to the income his wife generates as a financial analyst, Lord was able to pursue both, picking up his college academic career at UCF in his 40s as a father of three.
“I’m blessed to have an angel as a wife, who works hard and has a great career,” Lord said. “She’s my angel, and she brought me back to the Lord. … (She) and my kids have helped me get on the straight and narrow.”
Back in the game
While finishing his studies at UCF, Lord said he nearly went into coaching at the college level.
He took a coaching class with former Knights head coach George O’Leary, who had recruited Lord when he was in high school. Lord recalls a conversation during which O’Leary, since retired, suggested he gravitate toward coaching in high school, given that he had young children and the travel of a college coach can wear on a family.
Lord graduated from UCF 15 years ago, at age 42, and his first job back in coaching was helping out Bob Head while he was Olympia.
The Lord children went to Foundation Academy, and two years later, he was approached to help out on the staff of Todd Bleak, the head coach for the program’s first two years. Lord joined as the Lions’ defensive coordinator in 2007, and his loud and blunt temperament was an immediate outlier in a brand-new program full of players that had not had much experience with football culture.
“Brad was different,” said Josh Mansingh, a standout for Foundation’s early teams who is now the school’s boys soccer coach. “Out of 33 players, I think we had one who’d really played football before.”
Bleak left after the 2007 season, and Lord was promoted to head coach, with players voicing their support for him as the successor. The Lions, who had won four games spanning their first two seasons, matched that win total in Lord’s first season, going 4-6 in 2008.
Foundation went 5-5 in 2009 and 7-3 in 2010, all while competing in the Sunshine State Athletic Conference. And although his program still was young, he began to dream of a bigger stage for the Lions.
“My goal was to get out of the Sunshine (State Conference) and go into FHSAA (State Series) play — and they thought I was out of my mind,” Lord said.
In 2011, Foundation Academy football did just that, going 5-5 in its first season outside of the SSAC. In 2012, the Lions made the playoffs for the first time in Class 2A and in 2015 the program earned its first playoff win.
It was all part of the plan for Lord, who knew success was necessary for attracting a different caliber of student-athlete.
“They don’t give away scholarships here,” Lord said. “We had to build a reputation as winners, and then we started getting kids.”
The players did indeed come.
Lord can rattle off all the names: Denzel and Darius Irvin, Alec and Evan Thompson Gabe Walker, Evan Thompson, Jaquan Patterson, Quinlan Marshall, Konrie Brown, David Orlando and many others.
The program won its first district championship in 2015 and came up just short of a regional championship in 2016, losing in overtime to Lakeland’s Victory Christian.
All the players who have come through the program can attest to the way Lord would go to bat for them on the recruiting trail. Each summer, he and his assistants load up a van with their kids and went to camps around the Southeast United States. This summer, that included stops at Alabama, Troy, Florida State and UCF.
Lord takes few breaks and his work ethic has rubbed off on his student-athletes over the years.
“I am blessed to have the best set of coaches. My staff could go anywhere in Orange County. We could take a public school (program) over like that.”
“He’s diligent,” said David Orlando, a 2016 graduate who has returned to help coach the Lions this fall. “Diligence is something I pride myself on now, and I’d say that’s because of Coach Lord.”
The on-campus facility, which the Lions will debut this fall, marks a new chapter for the program. Although the home games Foundation Academy played at Walker Field in Winter Garden always had a special feel — the Lions’ faithful would pack the home bleachers regularly — Lord, his staff and players are excited to play true home games.
Speaking of his staff, he boasts about them nearly as much as he does his players. He beams as he talks up two of the Lions’ coaches — Andre Walker and Leon Covington — part of the Lakeland High team in 2006 that won a state and national title.
“I am blessed to have the best set of coaches,” Lord said. “My staff could go anywhere in Orange County. We could take a public school (program) over like that.”
Foundation Academy fans have no reason to worry, though, because Lord is committed to the program for the long haul.
“I’ll go as long as I’m healthy,” Lord said. “It’s what makes me tick. I get up in the morning — every morning — and I love going to work. And every evening I go home gassed.”