Phillips tried to do the right thing

Maybe you remember a Kentucky Sports Magazine feature I did on Joker Phillips a few years ago when he was named Kentucky's offensive coordinator. It was an in-depth, lengthy interview into Phillips' coaching background and his passion for the University of Kentucky.

Maybe you remember a Kentucky Sports Magazine feature I did on Joker Phillips a few years ago when he was named Kentucky's offensive coordinator. It was an in-depth, lengthy interview into Phillips' coaching background and his passion for the University of Kentucky.

What the article didn't tell you was that Phillips drove 35 miles from Lexington to my home in Danville to do the interview because a scheduling problem had made him miss our scheduled interview at the UK football office. At the time, I figured he would eventually reschedule.

I never expected to get a call from him the next day telling me he was on his way to Danville for the interview. But a few minutes later, there he was in my living room pouring his heart out about UK football just like he had over 20 years ago when I first saw him play . "For Larry Vaught, I will drive anywhere. You know that. This thing is about character, and that was the right thing -- driving to Danville -- for me to do at that time. I missed your interview and that was the right thing to do. It was my fault, so I should have been the one driving," Phillips said Friday moments after it was announced he was now officially UK's coach in waiting.

Phillips didn't have to make the drive that day. I never asked him to. Never thought about him ever doing it. But he did and I never forgot what that reaffirmed for me about his character. It also was why I was not shocked when he briefly cried -- an emotion he never shows publicly -- when discussing what his pay raise and impending promotion meant to him.

"I try to sell this program, and it is an easy sell, every day. Sometimes you just have to believe. That has helped me. I have tried to be a good person and live the good way. People look at this program for people who do the right things and I want to be part of that," Phillips said.

It was also heartwarming to see how proud his mother and wife were as he stood at the podium discussing his future job as UK's head coach. "My wife has been on pins and needles, just like myself, all day," Phillips said Friday. "This is her home. This is her university. She has taken every class in this university. She has her undergrad work and now a Ph.D. This is a place she wants to be at also.

"My mom is beaming and I am proud to be her son. She has kicked me in the fanny when I needed her to and loved me up when I needed the loving. I am just excited for them to have an opportunity to be here. I didn't tell them until last night and they didn't decide to come until about 1 o'clock our time here and they had to go from central to eastern time zone. I am just happy to see her here.

I know what this means to her." Better yet is what this means to Kentucky. It means continuity in the program, but more importantly it means there is a chance for a homegrown player to follow his dream, work to make it come true and then finally have it happen. For me, that made my drive from Danville to Lexington Friday one of the best trips I've ever made.


AllWildcats Top Stories