"I'm up to 226 pounds," Rashad Phillips told Pack Pride. "It's feeling alright. I'm just trying to get stronger now, but adding the weight has been easy."
Phillips improved his stock more than any other player in the state of Virginia after starring as a senior for Landstown (VA) High School. He didn't play his junior season because he was focusing on basketball, but the decision to play football in 2005 paid off as he earned a scholarship to attend NC State.
Starting at tight end and defensive end for Landstown, he finished the year with 23 sacks, 33 catches and six touchdowns. He also blocked five punts and returned two of them for scores, showcasing his big-play ability.
Phillips received scholarship offers from Kent State, Cincinnati, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Maryland, among others prior to signing with NC State. He earned all-state and all-conference honors as a senior, and stated that his desire to play basketball was a major reason he played at barely 200 pounds his final prep season. Now that he is focusing only on football, adding solid weight hasn't been a problem.
"I was trying to work out during my senior year, but I was playing basketball," he said. "I was doing a lot of running, but once I got here it's been all football and just working out. It's been easy to get bigger. I'm just trying to add as much as I can right now."
Phillips has a great opportunity to play. Prior to fall practice, returning reserve tight end Octavious Darby was dismissed from the team, leaving just starter Anthony Hill, Phillips, and Matt Kushner, who redshirted in 2005 as a defensive end, as the only scholarship tight ends on the roster.
"With Octavious, that was just a bad thing that happened," Phillips said. "It's an opportunity for me now, but I don't want to wish that on anyone. I'm just trying to work hard to earn my spot now."
How does he feel he is progressing as the season opener is just two weeks away?
"I'm doing good right now," said Phillips. "I'm still learning how to block, that's probably been the hardest part. As far as the routes and catching balls, that comes easy. The tough part is blocking those bigger guys, but I'm working hard to get better at it."
Phillips also has the chance to learn from one of the ACC's best returning tight ends, junior Anthony Hill. Hill, regarded as a punishing blocker and reliable option in the passing game, isn't a household name yet as he played behind T.J. Williams last season, and he even shocked Phillips with just how good he is.
"Anythony... he's real good," Phillips said. "He surprised me because I was thinking I was coming in playing tight end and trying to earn a spot. He's helped me a lot during everything... learning plays, trying to stay focused. He's been there helping me a lot."
The future is bright for Phillips. Just ask Wolfpack tight ends coach Curt Cignetti.
"Rashad Phillips is a freshman, and he's shown a great attitude," said Cignetti. "He's very eager. He runs well, catches the ball well, has good quickness and suddenness."