After coaching at six other high schools, coming back to FPC is a dream come true for Paxia.
After coaching at six high schools during the past nine years, Robert Paxia thought he had finally found a place where he and his family could put down roots.
But then the vagabond football coach got a chance to come home.
As a student, Robert Paxia played on the offensive line at FPC and won a state weightlifting title in the 238-pound class.
On May 24, Flagler Palm Coast High School hired Paxia to replace Travis Roland as its head football coach.
Paxia graduated from FPC in 2008. He played football for the Bulldogs and won a state weightlifting championship. He met his wife at FPC and began his coaching career there while still in college.
Leaving Lakeland Lake Gibson after posting a 22-3 record over the past two seasons was difficult. But returning to FPC? That was a dream come true.
“This has been one of my goals since I started coaching football,” Paxia said in a recent phone interview. “Flagler impacted me a ton when I was a young man.”
Paxia applied for the FPC job after the 2016 season. Instead, the Bulldogs hired Roland, who went on to lead FPC to four straight playoff appearances and an undefeated regular season in 2017.
“Robert had a good shot at the job back then,” FPC Athletics Director Steve DeAugustino said. “Travis just had more experience.”
Ironically, Roland decided to leave FPC in April to take the vacant head coaching job at his own alma mater, Mainland High. As a senior linebacker, Roland helped lead the Bucs to the Class 5A state championship in 2003.
“When I didn’t get the job in 2016, I figured Travis would be there as long as he wanted to be,” Paxia said. “At that point, I put it out of my mind. I figured I’d find my place and do as good a job as possible.”
Winding road to FPC
Paxia played on the offensive line at FPC and won a state weightlifting title in the 238-pound class. After a torn ACL ended Paxia’s freshman season at Webber International University, his high school coach, Steve Allen, convinced him to come back to FPC to coach.
“I learned so much that first spring from Coach Allen and all those guys I played for,” he said.
“This has been one of my goals since I started coaching football. Flagler impacted me a ton when I was a young man.”
He was on FPC’s staff for four seasons while completing a bachelor of applied science degree in supervision and management at Daytona State College.
Over the next few years, Robert and his wife, Alexandra, got to know the U-Haul operators in several towns: In 2013, Paxia became offensive coordinator at Brooksville Central. In 2014, he moved to Bradford High as the defensive coordinator. He moved again the following season to Plant City, where he was the offensive coordinator in 2015 and the head coach in 2016, compiling a 6-3 record.
After losing out on the FPC job that offseason, he became an assistant coach at Villa Rica High outside of Atlanta. After two seasons at the Georgia school, Paxia became head coach at Lake Gibson. In 2019 he led the Braves to an 11-1 record a year after they finished 4-6. Their only loss was in four overtimes to Charlotte in the playoffs. This past season Lake Gibson went 11-2, advancing to the regional finals.
“It’s actually refreshing to see how he grew from four years ago to now,” DeAugustino said. “Robert always has been goal-oriented. He’s always trying to improve.”
How much you care
Paxia’s coaching philosophy is based on building relationships.
“The kids won’t care what you know until they know how much you care,” he said.
His FPC head coaching tenure will begin on June 7 when the Bulldogs will start their summer lifting program. Paxia is retaining Brian Cox as his defensive coordinator. Cox led the program during spring drills.
Paxia doubles as his own offensive coordinator. His Braves led the state in scoring offense in 2020. His offense is heavy in run-pass option, he said, adapting to his quarterback’s strengths.
“Our kids are going to be coached well, be physical and have really good film,” he said.
The Paxias have two children, ages 7 and 1. Robert and Alexandra’s parents live in Flagler County, and having all four of their children’s grandparents nearby was the No. 1 factor in their decision to leave Lakeland, he said.
“I had no intention of leaving Lake Gibson,” Paxia said. “But Flagler is home.”