For the past nine years, Brandon Isaiah has patrolled sidelines in the Charlottesville area, mentoring and guiding high schoolers as an assistant football coach for various local teams.
When Isaiah stalks the sidelines next year, he’ll be leading a program of his own.
In a press conference Thursday, Albemarle High School Athletic Director Deb Tyson introduced the former Virginia fullback and professional player as the Patriots’ new head football coach.
“You always want the opportunity to lead your own program. This place has great facilities, great support, great resources,” Isaiah said. “…I just wanted the opportunity to build something special on my own.”
Tyson lauded Isaiah’s combination of intensity and acumen in explaining the hire.
“He has a great blend of passion and energy and knowledge and fire that I think are going to contribute to taking these young men to the next level,” Tyson said. “He’s very focused. He’s very clear on his vision — it’s not just emotion.”
After setting the career rushing record and excelling in both football and basketball for Parkland Senior High School in Winston-Salem, N.C., Isaiah earned two letters with the Cavaliers before graduating with a sociology degree in 2004. In his senior season, he caught a nine-yard touchdown pass.
While he began his coaching career on former Albemarle coach Rick Vrhovac’s staff in 2005, he continued to compete for indoor league teams during the spring, including the Richmond Raiders, Richmond Revolution, Florida Firecats and Kansas City Brigade. Isaiah credits his playing experience with helping to mold his perspective as a coach.
“It’s taught me about competing, but it’s also taught me about working with multiple people,” Isaiah said. “It’s kind of humbled me in the sense that it helped me understand what’s important.”
Isaiah spent the last three seasons with Monticello after serving as an assistant for both Albemarle and Charlottesville. With him on staff, the Mustangs won 28 games.
Isaiah told his players Thursday that while he plans to rely on “Power I” formations, he will adapt his strategy to fit the Patriots’ personnel.
“I believe in getting the ball to playmakers. I believe in making things simple,” Isaiah said.
He also said he would employ a base 4-2-5 defense but allow for flexibility in how Albemarle attacked opposing offensive schemes.
Isaiah replaces Mike Alley, who led the Patriots to the playoffs for the first time in a decade last season, his fourth with the team. Alley resigned as head coach in January to devote more time to his youth ministry work.
Although encouraged by the talent he has already inherited, Isaiah is targeting sustained excellence in the long term as a primary goal.
“I’m not just concerned with winning games. I want to build a program that’s consistent every year,” Isaiah said. “We win seven games, we win eight games, maybe we win 10 games, 11 games, but we never go backwards. I want to build something that’s going be able to run yearly.”
In Tyson’s view, her new coach’s impressive “football credentials” pale in comparison to his leadership qualities.
“They’re great. But that’s not what makes him who he is,” Tyson said. “That’s not the best part of him. The best part of him is his ability to reach young them, to motivate them.”