Robert Graham is Apex’s next football coach, the school announced Thursday. Graham is a career and technical education teacher at the school who played tight end at Fayetteville State and North Carolina A&T.
Graham wants to learn his team’s strengths and weaknesses but said he will run the pass-oriented spread offense with coordinator Isaac Bristol and a 3-3-3 stack defense with coordinator Fred Blanks.
The past two years, Graham has been the head coach at nearby Lufkin Road Middle, compiling a record of 10-6. Graham previously coached at Apex with Bob Wolfe, the school’s all-time leader in wins, and was an assistant when next year’s seniors were ninth-graders.
“I started out with these kids when they were freshmen, so I haven’t seen all of them play,” Graham said. “We’re going to have to identify what we have and fit them where we need them in our system.”
Athletics director Del Phillips said he was impressed with Graham’s demeanor, calling him a “calming presence” and a “no-nonsense kind of guy.” Graham said he learned organizational skills from Wolfe and how to be a teacher of the game from his middle school students.
“Coaching middle school takes a lot of patience,” Graham said. “You try to put them where they need to be, but you’ve got to let them figure it out as they go sometimes.”
Apex went 5-7 last year, snapping a five-year postseason drought and making the school’s first trip to the NCHSAA playoffs since 2008.
“He’s got some talent coming back, it’s just a matter of them adapting to his style,” Phillips said. “He’s going to be real dedicated to the JV program, and that’s something that sometimes gets pushed aside.”