“I’m going to give up the ghost,” the 83-year-old Lord said.
Lord, who was the oldest high school coach in Georgia the last few years, spent nine years in the NFL as an assistant coach with the Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers and New York Giants.
An additional 19 years of his life was spent coaching college football, making stops at Wake Forest, Appalachian State, Morehead State, Liberty University and the University of Massachusetts.
Another 28 was spent coaching high school football that includes a five-year stint at Pope in the 1990s and another five launching the Fellowship Christian football program after being hired in 2003.
The last three years Lord spent as an assistant coach at Lassiter under Jep Irwin, but now, the east Cobb resident says it’s time to spend the bulk of his time with his wife of nearly 60 years, Julia, his five children and 18 grandchildren.
Finding time to be with his family was difficult throughout his lengthy career considering coaching is rarely a 9-to-5 job. And constantly having to move his family, willingly or unwillingly, sometimes became burdensome.
“My sweetheart was an ace in managing the kids when I was gone,” he said. “We set some rules and so forth and we had five great kids that did what we asked them to do. We taught them to keep their nose clean, get a good education and walk with the Lord. Now they’re all happily married.”
A native of Brunswick, Maine, Lord claims he’s never had a hobby away from football, besides riding his Kawasaki Vulcan 900 CCS to and from work. Even though he never won a state or national championship or a Super Bowl ring, he still claims football is his primary hobby.
But once he’s done serving as interim athletic director for Kings Ridge Christian School in Alpharetta, traveling is on the top of his list. He’s got family in Minnesota, Colorado, Kansas and Capetown, South Africa. That is if he can hold off the coaches trying to lure him back to the field.
“I’m trying to get him back part time,” Irwin said. “I think he’s tried to retire several times in his life, and he’s not real good at it. Bob Lord is a tireless worker. He loves helping people and working with others. The biggest influence he had in our program is that he’s a follower of Jesus Christ and is a strong Christian.”
During his college coaching days early in his career, before his first NFL job with the Bears in 1974, he would come home for dinner and then sometimes go back to the office. But during the offseason, most of his Sundays were devoted to his family.
Julia set one ground rule early on and that was to not bring frustrations of losing home with him. She recalled an incident while head coach at Macalester College at St. Paul, Minn. that put that rule in motion.
“One time we were at church, I looked all over for Bob and he wasn’t there,” Julia said. “We had played a bad game (the previous day) and we were having a losing season. I just took the children and we went home and we found out that he had walked home, six miles or so.
“That was when I decided that winning or losing in football wasn’t going to govern our home. That’s not how we do it here. We can’t go in the hole every time there’s a loss. Try to keep the atmosphere positive.”
Lord’s years in the NFL were harder for him in terms of managing his job and family. He said he often went 180-plus straight days without a day off during the season.
But coaching in the NFL allowed him to get acquainted in some of the coaching greats during the 70s and 80s, most notably Dallas Cowboys legend Tom Landry, Pittsburgh Steelers great Chuck Noll and longtime Minnesota Vikings coach Bud Grant.
But the toughest obstacle Lord and his family had to endure while he was an NFL assistant were the firings. He was let go from all three professional teams he coached.
“I’ll be totally honest with you, it was devastating to the family,” Lord said. “It feels that you have let them down because you are the breadwinner. The kids are sometimes ridiculed. The thought of going home and telling your wife that next month is my last paycheck was devastating.
“The thing we depended on most was our Christian walk. You apply for a job. Then you get something. Then you get a paycheck again. Then you get fired again. Football is tough.”
While at Green Bay, he shared an office and a friendship with former Georgia Tech and Georgia State coach Bill Curry, who referred Lord to his first high school coaching job in Georgia at Columbia High School in 1985.
The years of coaching in high school were easier on his family.
“High school has been a joy because we were helping young people who were fed a lot of something that’s not very good for them,” Julia said. “Them having a coach who stands for what he believes in, that’s been a pleasure.”
His three years at Columbia was the start of a successful high school career, which was what he did for most of the last two decades. He spent two years at Berkmar before coaching five years at Pope from 1991-95.
He was 35-18 overall with the Greyhounds and took them to the state playoffs his last two years there.
Lord was a stern disciplinarian as a high school coach. Lord often visited families of rising seniors to learn how motivated his seniors or to anticipate pending problems. He said he didn’t tolerate facial hair, long hair, jewelry and players had to wear socks instead of footies. And coaches had to dress alike – khaki pants and a colored shirt that represented their school with hats being optional.
“I did have a senior council and consulted them because I wanted them to have ownership on the field,” Lord said. “I felt a senior-led team was the best for high school and college.”
Lord’s highlight of his high school coaching career was starting the Fellowship Christian program in 2003 and leading them to the Class A state quarterfinals four years later before stepping down. He went 11-2 in 2007 and was named Class A Coach of the Year.
When he started at Fellowship, the team didn’t have a stadium field or practice field on campus. They practiced on a field at Lebanon Baptist Church that had no goal posts until a parent supplied them with one. With no locker rooms available, players would have to change in the parking lot. And their weight training program took place in the basement of someone’s house. Home games were played on the old Milton High School stadium.
“The kids never complained,” Lord said.