MOULTRIE — Ty Phillips was a prime defensive player for the Colquitt County football teams that won 30-straight games in 2014-2015 and went to start at Georgia Southern, finishing his collegiate career last fall.
But if not for the interest and concern of midget football coach Terry Grant, Phillips might never have played after he was 8 years old.
Phillips readily concedes that he was not all that thrilled with contact as a youngster.
“I was always a big kid and you know what they say, the bigger they are, the harder the fall,” Phillips said on Tuesday.
He didn’t much like the falling part.
But when he didn’t go out for football the next year, Grant went to his house and encouraged his family to make sure the youngster got back on the gridiron.
He did and soon had other coaches who, like Grant, took an interest in him and turned him into a player who is hoping to show a National Football League team that he can handle himself at the game’s top level.
Phillips says he is working out every day, eating right and staying in shape so that if a call comes, he will be ready.
Because of the effects of the coronavirus, the NFL has not completed plans for the 2020 season.
But Phillips says his agent has been in touch with several teams and both hope to get a call to a training camp.
“The league doesn’t know what’s coming,” he said. “My mindset is to be the best I can be.”
By the time he was a junior at Colquitt County High, he was proving to be a force on the Packers defensive front.
He gives much of the credit for his development to fellow Packer defensive linemen Jamiyus Pittman, Michael Parrish, Alex Williams, Ricky Dunbar and T.J. Smith.
“I really learned a lot from those guys,” he said.
And he had some outstanding and caring coaches in Moultrie, including Greg Tillery, Shelton Felton and Courtney Sanders.
Phillips said,“I still keep in touch with coach Felton,” who is now the outside linebackers coach at Tennessee.
Sanders was the defensive line coach in 2015 when the Packers went 15-0, won the state championship and a national championship.
“Coach Sanders really brought out my work ethic,” Phillips said. “That’s why we were such a great front seven.
“He wouldn’t let us take a play off.”
Head coach Rush Propst and his staffs in 2014 and 2015 created a situation in which “we got used to winning. We hated to lose.
“We had some tough games, but the coaches really did a great job of keeping us motivated,” Phillips said. “We just kept trucking every game. And we were loaded with talent.”
Another assistant coach on the 2014-2015 state champions was Jeremy Rowell.
When Rowell left to go to Georgia Southern in 2016, he reached out to Phillips.
“We were real close,” Phillips said. “He reached out to me on Day 1 and said he felt like (Southern) could further my education and my football.
“And I don’t regret it.”
Phillips began his freshman year as a defensive lineman, but part way through he season was moved briefly to offense and started the game against Ole Miss at tight end.
After moving back to defense, the 6-foot-3, 290-pounder started six games as a sophomore, 11 as a junior and all 13 last season when the Eagles went 7-6.
In his sophomore and junior seasons, former Packers teammate Tomarcio Reese also started for Southern, playing linebacker.
After last season, Phillips received the team’s Fred Stokes Award as its top defensive lineman.
Two of his best memories while at Southern are playing against national champions his final two seasons: Clemson, his junior season, and LSU last year.
Phillips says he has two more classes to take before earning his degree.
His goal is to play in the National Football League, but he has a backup plan. He said he’d like to get into coaching. And not just anywhere.
“Wouldn’t it be nice to come home and win a state championship as a player and then as a coach?”