Starting Over Isn’t Always Easy

Lilly's resilience helped him to land on his feet as he transitioned from executing NFL plays to leading media production

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Starting Over Isn’t Always Easy

Trinity Marshall, Staff Writer

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Mr. Robert Anthony Lilly, one of Hylton’s TV production teachers, always loved to play football. When he was 9 years old, he represented the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area in the NFL’s “Punt, Pass and Kick” competition. Lilly explained that the energy from the crowd encouraged him to do his best.  From that point on, he had no doubt that he was going to play for the NFL.

After graduating from University of Florida, Lilly was drafted to the Denver Broncos and played the safety position. After four years with the Broncos, he was drafted to the Buffalo Bills, but Lilly’s NFL career came to a quick halt when he developed a neck injury.

As a result, he was never able to play for the Bills and had to start over with his life path.  He was heavily focused on football in college and had no clear direction about what to do next. Lilly quickly fell into depression. He was worried about being able to support his family.

Lilly’s brother approached him and shared his dream of owning a restaurant. Together they opened up Lilly’s, a deli formerly located in historic Occoquan. The deli was open for about a year. Business was okay, but owning a restaurant just wasn’t Mr. Lilly’s dream.

It was time to start over again.  Frustrated about the next step, Lilly decided to reach toward a new goal, sports journalism. Lilly went back to college and earned a communications degree through George Mason University.

After receiving his degree, he sent his resume to several different companies. CNN offered him an internship opportunity and he took it. During the experience, he learned many things about how the newsroom works.

His best friend told him about an opportunity to coach varsity football and teach television production at Woodbridge High School. This sounded like the perfect opportunity to combine both of his passions; he gladly accepted the job.

After coaching and teaching at Woodbridge, he moved to Hylton. He is currently the head coach of the Hylton Bulldogs Varsity Football team. While coaching football, he has taken in three homeless players. He gets teary-eyed when explaining how having them in his home changed his family’s lives for the better. 

Mr. Lilly makes a significant contribution to the Hylton community through his role as a media production teacher and football coach.