This past summer, Virginia tight end Colter Phillips lost his father, William “Bill” Phillips Sr., in the Alaskan plane crash that also took the life of former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens. Colter’s father and younger brother, Willy, were among the nine passengers in the small plane. Willy was one of four survivors. It’s been an emotional season for Phillips and his family. Colter has an older brother, Andrew, who is a senior offensive guard at Stanford, and his younger brother, Paul, is a freshman tight end at Indiana. I spoke with Colter earlier this week about his season and was extremely impressed by his positive outlook. Here are the highlights of our conversation:
First I wanted to say I’m sorry for everything your family has gone through this season. I can’t imagine how difficult that has been for you.
Colter Phillips: Yeah, it’s been tough. But I’ve had a lot of really great people around me, helping me out and giving me support. Just being on the team has been so important through this whole thing. It’s been nice to have that kind of support from everybody around here.
How much has the game of football -- I don’t want to trivialize it -- but how much has it helped you heal emotionally?
CP: Every day when we go out on the field, it’s kind of like the only time where I can just let everything loose and not really have to worry about everything. Before that, when I’d go out on the field, that was the biggest part of my day where I was trying to do everything perfectly and all that. Now it’s a way for me to get away and just have fun and relax. My coaches have really taught me to play loose and play relaxed and I think it’s really helped my game to use football as a way to have therapy. Just being out there with my teammates and everybody has been really great to have that kind of fun every day when I’m out on the field.
Your career so far to date, how has it gone compared to your expectations?
CP: I’m not really worried about statistics and all that, but personally I feel like my game has really improved a lot from what it was last year, especially my confidence. I feel like I can really play at the highest level right now. It’s a great feeling to know that you can play with the best.
It seems like you really do have such a carefree attitude toward it and love for the game. Is that because your priorities have recently changed or been changed for you?
CP: I’ve always really loved and respected and appreciated playing. Every day could be your last play. Joe (Torchia) just got hurt. He didn’t know he was never going to play college football again. You have to take that with you every day and play every play like it’s your last. That’s how you have to live life -- do your best every day.
Stay tuned for Part II with Colter Phillips.