Lexington’s new Frederick Douglass High School, set to open in the fall, will carry Keeneland green against a deep orange as its colors and bear the nickname “Stallions,” the school announced Monday along with the hiring of its first football coach.
Brian Landis, who spent last season as a defensive quality control and assistant linebackers coach at the University of Kentucky, was announced as the Stallions coach at a news conference Monday at MOD Pizza, a few blocks from the Winchester Road campus.
The nickname Stallions derives from the school’s property, once part of the famed Hamburg Place farm where racehorses, among them six Kentucky Derby winners, were sired. Hamburg Place is now a sprawling development on Lexington’s eastern edge. An original burial site of a Thoroughbred was encountered during the school’s construction, causing a slight delay. Frederick Douglass received permission from Keeneland to use its shade of green, Principal Lester Diaz said.
Landis, a former star at Lakota High School in Ohio, was previously an assistant at Eastern Kentucky University and Georgetown College before joining UK’s staff. He was a three-time all-Mid-South Conference safety at Georgetown, where he won a national title as a player in 2000 and as a graduate assistant in 2001.
About 50 individuals applied for the job, Douglass Athletic Director Garry McPeek said. McPeek, a former athletic director at Fairview High School who most recently served as Lafayette’s offensive line coach, interviewed 13 people for the position, and it was Landis’ relationship-first mentality that made him stand out as a person and football coach.
“He’s used to being around a wide range of kids,” McPeek told the Herald-Leader. “… It’s a unique situation to be able to come in on the ground floor and build something great. You’re gonna set the traditions and culture for the next 100 years. That’s a big task, but I feel like he’s up to it.”
The uncertainty that can come with high-level college jobs was something Landis didn’t want to face after living in Lexington for nearly two decades. UK head coach Mark Stoops told Landis that taking the Frederick Douglass job could be the best decision for his family and career if moving around isn’t in the cards.
“I told him, I’ve lived here 17 or 18 years and I’m part of this community,” Landis said. “We’re not ready to move ship. We wanna be here.”
A couple of unnamed assistants have already committed to Landis’ program, which he said will boast a defense-first mentality and a fast-paced, smash-mouth style of offense similar to what UK employed on its way to a 7-6 season.
“We’ll be really good on defense, I can promise you that,” Landis said. “That’s the number one goal. If you can play defense in this city, you’ve got an opportunity to be good.”
Landis played for the Lexington Horsemen, a now-defunct arena football team, in 2004 before becoming an assistant linebackers coach at Georgetown later that year. He was the defensive backs coach for the Tigers from 2006-2014 and was the program’s recruiting coordinator from 2010-2014. He became the safeties coach at EKU under Dean Hood in 2015. He never experienced a losing season while coaching at the collegiate level, a streak that briefly appeared in jeopardy after UK started 0-2 in 2016.
“After two games you guys were ready to fire us,” Landis said of the criticism after those games. “But we stayed the course. (Coach Mark Stoops) said, ‘Don’t flinch,’ and we stayed the course. That’s the one thing I’ll never forget about him.”
After 16 years as an assistant, Landis. 37, finally gets the opportunity to lead and leave his stamp on a program. The unique pressure presented by Frederick Douglass won’t be a problem, he said, because pressure is for those who aren’t prepared. He’s ready to put his plan in motion.
“You’ve got to set a standard for what you want your kids to achieve,” Landis said. “If you let ’em get away with not doing things the right way, then you’re not going to be successful. The number one thing is you’ve got to have discipline. You do through constant effort, attitude and toughness, to be able to do that over and over and over. That’s the whole key to it all. If we can get these kids doing the right things on a consistent basis, then we’ve got a shot to be okay. ...
“It’s Stallion time baby. Let’s ride.”
▪ McPeek said the school’s first volleyball coach could be hired by the end of this week. Diaz said that the school will be fully compliant with Title IX and have a complete offering of KHSAA sports and clubs when it opens its doors in August. The current plan is for girls’ teams to also use the “Stallions” nickname and not a variant such as “Fillies.”