ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ERIC CLARK
As a seventh-grader, Tommy Phillips had never played football. But after watching his older brother find success on the gridiron, Phillips thought he’d give it a try.
It appears to have been a very good decision.
After three games the 5-10, 190-pound senior is one of the state’s leading rushers with 655 yards on 80 carries-an amazing eight-yard average per carry.
It’s hard to imagine Phillips had other interests as a kid.
“Baseball and swimming were the big things I did growing up,” Phillips said. “I wanted to show my dad I could play football as good as my older brother because I wanted to get some attention from him.”
When Phillips traded in his baseball mitt and swim trunks, he found a new love for football.
Since his freshman year, Phillips has started in the backfield for Peabody-Burns.
And he’s made his presence felt, according to head coach Chris Young.
“Teams will overload our dive plays and they still can’t shut him down,” Young said. “We built our entire offense around him.
“He’s got the full package. He’s got power, he’s smart and he’s a good decision-maker.”
The power didn’t come automatically. Last year, Phillips squatted 400 pounds and benched 250 pounds at a weightlifting competition.
“He’s solid all over,” Young said. “There’s hardly any fat on him, but he runs like a big old 250-pounder.”
Phillips also excels in the classroom, posting a 3.88 grade-point average.
His work on the football field and in the classroom has colleges like Harvard, Columbia and Fort Hays State interested.
“There’s a lot of people looking at him right now,” Young said. “I think with his grade-point average-and of course his talent on the field-he has a lot of opportunities.”
Phillips doesn’t consider himself to be a bruising running back or an overall speedster.
“I think I’m kind of a slash-and-dash kind of guy,” Phillips said. “I don’t like to run over people. I just run.
“Coach’s big thing is you never let one guy tackle you,” he added. “So I follow my blockers and try not to let them bring me down.”
At this point, impressive stats aren’t a primary goal for Phillips.
“The most important thing right now is winning,” Phillips said. “It doesn’t matter who has the most yards or who scores the most touchdowns. It’s whether we win or not.”
“He’s not a greedy ballplayer,” Young said. “When we run our sweeps, he goes out and makes key blocks for our halfback. He doesn’t have to carry the ball all the time to be happy because he’s not that kind of player.”
The Warrior runningback credits his offensive line with much of his recent success.
“The offensive line is awesome this year,” Phillips said. “They fire off the ball and they block really well.”
With Friday’s 28-20 win over Inman, the Peabody-Burns Warriors are enjoying their first 3-0 start for the first time since the early 1990.
The win has created excitement for the team and the community of Peabody.
“I think everybody is real positive,” Phillips said. “Everybody’s happy that we’re winning. In the years past, you didn’t hear too many people talk about the football team and they didn’t want to go to the games.
“A lot of the locals are starting to go to the games and showing up, and it’s always good to have the town behind you.”
The Warriors will host Canton-Galva Friday for their homecoming festivities.