Normally, Phillip Dillard might be going into the last game of his prep-career as a champion, Jenks triumphing yet again, taking another of numerous titles they have won during their history. The loss to Tulsa Union in the state-final, however, it leaves Dillard feeling like things are a little undone.
The U.S. Army All-American game will at least for him be a chance to finish off his career a little better than this team finished off the season. "I think they give out a defensive player of the game award." Dillard speculated about trophies given out after the All-American Bowl. "I know I'd like to go out with that."
Dillard's role as a starter for Jenks makes him kind of a star in his own right. As a member of the Trojans, Dillard has done fairly well for himself starting at the middle linebacker position. This year, Dillard managed to accumulate 120 tackles, 3 ½ sacks, 4 forced fumbles, recovering all 4.
That kind of performance and on that kind of team, Dillard is hardly star-struck thinking about the players he'll meet and play against down in San Antonio, but he's excited nonetheless. "All these guys you read about on the Internet, it will be fun to get to meet them and play against them." Dillard said.
Huskers invade San Antonio
The excitement of those highly touted recruits is just the beginning, though, as Dillard will not only be meeting those he'll be playing against, but those he will be playing with once he gets to college.
Along side Phillip will be fellow future Huskers, Craig Roark, Jordan Congdon, Rodney Picou, Marlon Lucky and Leon Jackson. This opportunity to meet those he might spend the next four to five years is by itself worth the trip for Dillard. "It's like the other players you read about, but these are guys you are going to be playing with." He said. "So, it's exciting, because we'll get to know each other there and a few months later, we'll be hooking back up in Lincoln, ready to play some ball."
That, of course, is the Huskers-to-be, so it's not counting the Huskers that COULD be as there are at least 6 more players that still have Nebraska in their sites. Like his newfound friend, Craig Roark, Dillard plans to take a few opportunities to try and convince those that are still on the fence, that the grass is greener in the state of the Big Red. "I'm sure I will talk to a few of them.." Phllip said. "I'll just tell them why I chose Nebraska and I'll say that they should do what is best for them and follow their heart, but I think Nebraska is a great place to be."
One of the reasons why those committed became sold on Nebraska so much is the famous fan following of the Huskers. A sold-out stadium since 1962, they have become known as the most loyal fans in all of college football.
From recent reports, it would seem that loyalty is going to find its way down to San Antonio as there is news of chartered busses from Nebraska, even a chartered plane. Nothing would make this Jenks standout happier than to see at the game under the dome, a mini sea of red. "I know when I go to the games (Nebraska home games), it's crazy." Phillip said. "It's full even before the game starts."
"It'd be nice to see a lot of Husker-red down there."
Oklahoma exodus times three?
Lots of players will be making their decision down in San Antonio as to where their future school will be. It's become the big trend nowadays, players pulling out a variety of objects on national TV, hats, helmets, jerseys, all kinds of stuff with the logo of their college of choice.
While that particular event isn't supposed to happen for Santa Fe high school's, Reggie Smith, Dillard does have his hopes. In fact, he would love nothing more to have Smith join Roark and himself, making it a Oklahoma-exodus to NU. "To take three of the top players in the state at their position, in the state, period, that is going to say a lot about NU." Dillard said.
"It's also going to piss off a lot of OU fans."
That is something that Dillard wouldn't find particularly distressing as he'd come to know one side of the Sooner fan-base before his commit, but has gotten to know an entirely different side since. Frequenting the Internet and message boards to an extent, Phillip has seen just how "interesting" it can get. "You wouldn't believe what some of these people say about you." He said. "It doesn't bother me, especially since they can't seem to talk about anything else."
That anything else is Nebraska and it is not an irony lost on the future Husker that for an Oklahoma team that seems to have the world at its feet and a Nebraska team that is struggling to get back on theirs, there is a definite preoccupation with the other big red. "From being a freshman all the way up to my Senior year, I'd read the papers and stuff and there was nothing about Nebraska." He said. "Since Craig and myself committed, though, and there's a chance Reggie might to, everyday they are dogging them."
Dillard finds gratification in the irony, but Oklahoma's angst is also his fire for the future. "I love it." Dillard said of the building animosity towards NU. "I love it, because I know where Nebraska is going to be in a two or three years. With what coach Callahan, Blake and all them are doing there, Nebraska is going to be back at the top before you know it and they'll be doing it with help from players from Oklahoma."
Obviously, Dillard is hoping that aside from himself, Roark and newly committed, Zac Taylor, who's dad played at Ada High School along with being a three-time letter winner at defensive back for the Sooners, the scintillating Smith will add his name to the 2005 roster for NU.
Dillard considers that the proverbial icing on the cake and a very real possibility. "I know he loves coach Blake and Callahan." Phillip said. "He loves what they are doing there and the future."
"If he commits to Nebraska, OU fans are going to go crazy."
Excitement over the future
The angst is good if only a personal thing, but Dillard doesn't need the suffering of OU fans to get him going nowadays. Like he's been his entire career, Phillip looks to the future. Despite the last-game loss, he's able to see so much about what's up-coming for him and to summarize in one word, he'd say that his magic eight-ball has one word that keeps coming up to any question he asks……excitement.
"Everything is exciting about the future." He said. "I'm excited about the All-American game and facing so many great players. I am excited to get to meet guys that I'll be playing against and with. And, I am excited about what Nebraska is doing with this recruiting class and what they are going to be like in a few years."
"Heck, I didn't grow up a Nebraska fan and I am excited, so I can't imagine what those people that are, are feeling."
"It's going to be a good time to be part of the Huskers."