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Meet the Cardinal: Harrison Phillips

Aug 22, 2014

STANFORD, Calif. – Harrison Phillips admits he didn’t make a great first impression on the Stanford coaching staff, but he’s making up for lost time.

When the 6-foot-4, 255-pound freshman defensive end from Omaha, Neb., came to The Farm for his first visit, his flight was delayed six hours. Consequently, he arrived at 5 a.m. and began camp drills at 7 a.m. after a sleepless night.

“I didn’t do too well,” said Phillips, the 2013 Gatorade Nebraska Football Player of the Year. “Once I finally got some sleep under my belt, I won the king of the board drills.”

The latter involved about 100 Stanford hopefuls, who squared off one-on-one on a wooden board, where the object is to knock your opponent off the surface until the last man standing. Having lettered four years in wrestling and track and field (discus), Phillips was used to pushing people around.

Of course, the mere fact that Phillips made it to the Stanford camp is fairly remarkable. He comes from a humble background and his parents – Paul and Tammie – worked hard to raise money for his trip.

“We drove from city to city, camp to camp before I came out,” said Phillips, who visited several schools throughout the Midwest. “Anywhere I wanted to go. They spent a lot of money on my recruiting because they knew this was the only thing I wanted in my life was to become a Division I football player and make it to the NFL. They sacrificed a lot for me, and I can’t wait to pay them back.”

Phillips was rated the top high school player in Nebraska by 247Sports, second by Scout and Rivals, and third by ESPN. An all-state selection and team captain, he recorded 295 career tackles (188 solo), 80 tackles for loss, 34.5 sacks, and forced 23 fumbles.

While he dominated on film, the Stanford defensive coaches were concerned about the quality of his competition and encouraged him to attend camp.

“I got an offer and committed the next day,” he said. “I kept it quiet for a little bit, so I could relax and take a step back from all the interviews and announce it to the public after I called every single school and told them I had committed.”

Now that he is here, he can’t believe how things have worked out.

“It is everything that I imagined it would be,” said Phillips. “Just from the weather, to my teammates and coaches, the facilities … everything is top-notch. There’s a reason why we’re the No. 1 school in the nation and so competitive academically and athletically.”

Phillips attended summer school and just finished his classes. He took a calculus final last Friday night, then a psychology final Saturday morning, arriving late for the team’s scrimmage.

“I did miss some things. There’s still an opportunity and that’s all I need,” he said.

Phillips and the Cardinal will resume classes for the fall quarter in late September.

It didn’t take long for Phillips, who wears jersey number 66 in remembrance of the Bible's 66 books, to realize that Division I football is a big jump from high school football.

“I went against some linemen that weighed 220 pounds sometimes,” said Phillips. “Don’t get me wrong, I’ve gone against some good kids and Nebraska football talent is increasing every year. But I got away with a lot of things I can’t get away with here. I had no technique coming in. I just used brute strength to beat most people; just shuck them by and go find the ball.”

Phillips is a blue-collar player who isn’t afraid of hard work and knows what he wants. When veteran defensive line coach Randy Hart offers advice, Phillips hangs on every word.

“Coach Hart is the best defensive line coach I have ever seen,” he said. “He’s so strict on what I have to do and what I need. He knows I’ll do whatever it takes to get where I want to be.”

Phillips’ progress has not gone unnoticed by Hart.

“He’s an absolute delightful guy and he’s going to be a really good football player,” Hart said. “He’s everything we thought he was. He soaks up every bit of information that’s said on the practice field by any coach. He’s like a sponge.”

Even before his official visit, Phillips reached out to his new freshmen teammates.

“Facebook, Twitter … I got all their numbers, texted them and set up group chats,” he said. “The first night (at Stanford), I texted everyone to meet in the players’ lounge and we played ice-breaker games. You could tell some kids were quiet and some were outgoing, some liked attention and some didn’t. It didn’t matter because none of us judged anyone.

“Although we have our differences and come from different backgrounds, we still have the same ideas for what we want with our future. Being uncommon is the normal here and that’s what makes this place the most amazing place in the world.”

Even if it meant leaving home.

“I’m a momma’s boy and may not see my parents until January,” said Phillips. “So it hurt to come out here, too. But they know that this is the best thing for our family.”