One More Experience for Phillips

This season hasn't played out the way sixth-year senior Curt Phillips hoped it would, rarely playing after losing out on the starting job in a competitive fall camp battle. But looking at this season as a bonus, Phillips has cherished every opportunity to grow as a player, person and coach.

ORLANDO, Fla. - To say quarterback Curt Phillips has been around the Wisconsin program a long time would be an understatement.

"Curt welcomed Alvarez here," chided fellow QB Bart Houston.

While Phillips was not part of the official Alvarez welcome committee in 1990, the Kingsport, TN, native has played for three head coaches, three offensive coordinators and many teammates during his six years at Wisconsin, which officially will come to an end Wednesday in the Capital One Bowl against South Carolina.

"It had to have come sooner rather than later," Phillips deadpanned.

Phillips has every right to be bitter considering the circumstances he's been through – still competing after three ACL surgeries and countless others - and is currently in as the backup after starting last year, but doesn't see the value in the complaints. He simply chooses to view the year as a bonus, a gift from the NCAA of a sixth year that came following the Rose Bowl.

"I just wanted to learn as much as I can, and have fun with it," said Phillips, "I just didn't want to have any regrets. I wanted to play football as long as I could until somebody told me I couldn't anymore."

Phillips started the final five games of the season, including a 62-14 victory over Indiana in his first start and a 70-31 blasting of Nebraska in the conference title game. He went 2-3 as a starter, but two losses came in overtime after he threw a game-tying touchdown pass at the end of regulation.

In the Rose Bowl, Phillips accounted for 147 total yards, including a 38-yard rush and a passing touchdown, before falling short in the final minutes, and did most of it despite tearing his meniscus during the course of the game.

"My family made sure I lived in the moment when I did get that opportunity to start," said Phillips. "You never know if it's going to come around again."

Following the season, he had one of his numerous knee surgeries (he doesn't reveal how many he's really had) and proclaimed himself fit to start. Although his numbers were comparable to Stave's throughout the camp, Wisconsin went with the younger quarterback.

"By no means did I ever come into thinking I wouldn't be the starter," said Phillips. "At the same time, the coach has a decision to make. While I may not agree, I respect that decision. I think there's one thing I have learned through six years is things don't always go your way. Nobody wants to hear anybody complain.

"I worked hard in the offseason. I thought I put together a good camp. I don't regret anything. I worked as hard as I could, and it didn't work out how I planned."

Phillips has appeared in only two games, but hasn't complained or ruffled feathers. He's even passed up the opportunity to play in the season opener to allow Houston to get his first game reps.

"He's a great guy, has great character and has done everything he can to help me and help this team be successful," said Stave. "That's just the kind of guy Curt is. That's the guy any team wants to have."

The quarterback consider their position room a competitive, yet positive, atmosphere, as the group goes over film from practices, games and opponents with the idea of making one another better, instead of the alternative. Phillips has been the biggest teacher of that to Houston and Stave with his deep knowledge of offenses, playbooks, reads and schemes.

Throw in the underdog factor of Phillips still competing despite the adversity, it was a bittersweet moment for Stave when he was named the starter.

"We're all teammates, we're all friends and you want the best for everyone," said Stave. "Unfortunately at quarterback only one guy can play, ideally. It was disappointing that Curt couldn't get the opportunity. I know how much he wanted it, just as much as I wanted it. I think he's done a tremendous job handling everything the way he's handled it."

That overall football IQ that Phillips possesses has served him well. On game days, Phillips is Stave's spotter from the sideline and the middleman on the headset between the quarterback and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig. He also spots things at the blink of the eye to help make adjustments.

Against Minnesota, Phillips noticed that Stave and the offense were slightly late executing the handoff on the fake jet sweep. Watching film following the 20-7 win, Phillips' sideline observation was spot on.

"He's great at noticing little things like that," said Stave.

"The ultimate goal of Joel and I is to try and help us win as much as possible, and do whatever I can to help that," added Phillips. "It's obviously frustrating not being in there, but just providing a different perspective from having been in there and seeing things from the sideline."

Phillips is finishing his thesis and his master's degree in athletic administration. From there, he hopes to be a graduate assistant and go into coaching, something Phillips said coach Gary Andersen has been helping him with by getting the word out.

"We've had a lot of coaches come through here," said Phillips. "While that's frustrating, I know a lot of people."

Phillips may not see the field again as a player for Wisconsin, but last year's final five games made a perfect finishing note.

"The end was everything I had hoped for," said Phillips. "Getting a chance to be in there, it may all the hard work worth it. Any time you get a chance to do it, it's fun."


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