While Russell Wilson has ignited the Wisconsin offense since fall camp, Phillips has been in the background for what has been a frustrating two seasons for the one-time heralded recruit from Kingsport, Tennessee, rehabbing from multiple knee injuries, surgeries and blows to his psyche.
"Obviously it's been extremely frustrating and a long process," Phillips said Tuesday. "The big thing is to just be patient with it. It was a big boost when I was able to come back here after being home for the summer and be back around it again. It shows you what you are doing all this work for because it's been a pick me up."
After playing five games his redshirt freshman year, completing 7 of 13 passes in 2009, Phillips plans to battle Jon Budmayr for the No.2 quarterback went out the window when he tore his ACL in his right knee on a non-contact scramble during a spring drill in March 2010.
Phillips' comeback was entering its eighth month when he re-tore his ACL during scout team work in November 2010.
This past spring, the antsy Phillips convinced offensive coordinator Paul Chryst to let him participate in 7-on-7 passing drills. Phillips was a part of the team's first two weeks of practices but started feeling discomfort in his damaged knee.
An exploratory surgery revealed an infection in the knee that occurred during his second surgery, resulting in his body rejecting the new knee ligaments. Instead of being on the road to recovery, Phillips had to spend time in the hospital and spent his summer in Tennessee wearing a fanny pack full of IV antibiotics.
"I wasn't allowed to work out or anything like that," said Phillips.
Phillips returned to Madison in August and had his third knee surgery on August 16, giving him a year-and-a-half to rehabilitate in preparation for the 2012 season as a fifth-year senior.
"I am not going to have to rush it like the time I tore it in spring ball and I tried to come back before the season," Phillips said. "It was definitely disappointing knowing about the infection but I have a little more than seven months to spring ball."
The start of spring practices will start with Phillips roughly seven-plus months out from surgery, meaning it's his goal to compete in 7-on-7 drills during spring camp with the hope of being medically cleared for the summer. Phillips is hoping, however, this isn't his last chance to compete at Wisconsin.
Looking at applying and being granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, Phillips, in theory, meets the requirements with having suffered a serious injury that has kept him from playing for more than one season. The only catch is that Phillips can't apply for the waver until he has exhausted all of his eligibility.
"It's kind of frustrating because you just don't know," Phillips said. "We've filled the paperwork and everything is kind of ready to go."
Three knee surgeries, infections and uncertainty, Phillips has been questioned by many people on what keeps him going. That answer became crystal clear to him when he left the team and then returned in the summer.
"Whenever something is taken away from you that you love, it really does show how much you do enjoy it," Phillips said. "It makes that all that hungrier to come back. People always give me a hard time on why would I come back from two of them. I just say three of them makes it a better story when I do come back."
With Wisconsin needing to replace Russell Wilson entering next season, where will Phillips be when fall camp opens?
"I should be ready to go," Phillips said. "I should be right back in the mix."