Rookie snapshot: Marvin Philip

Check for Marvin Philip on the internet and you'll learn more about play-by-play announcer Marvin Philip Albert than you will about the center from California. But if you were to continue digging ...

... there's plenty to find on the Pittsburgh Steelers' rookie center. The sixth-round draft pick was a:

• Finalist for the Rimington Award, which honors the nation's best center.

• First team Pac 10.

• Second team AP All-America.

• Team captain, Most Valuable Lineman and Most Valuable Player of the offense at California.

• Winner of the Joe Roth Award at Cal for courage, attitude and sportsmanship.

• Missionary for the Church of the LDS.

• Eagle Scout.

• High school rugby MVP.

• Tala-Kei-Ola News' Student-Athlete of the Year.

Philip called one of the above "the hardest thing I've ever done."

Any guesses?

"Mentally, you can't prepare for the mission," Philip said. "You're up by 6:30 in the morning and you abide by strict rules. That was the hard part."

Philip was the first-team, 300-pound center for Cal under Coach Tom Holmoe when he left for the mission after the 2001 season. Philip lost 50 pounds while walking what must have felt like the entire region between North Dakota and Wyoming.

When he returned, he was the second-team center for Cal under Coach Jeff Tedford. Since the leaders of the mission forbid access to TV, radio, telephone, internet and newspapers, Philip wasn't aware of the coaching change until hearing it second hand on the street. But he came back, regained his weight and worked his way to becoming the fifth center drafted into the NFL this spring.

Philip attended the Steelers' three-day minicamp, but had to return to Berkley to graduate with a degree in American Studies. His emphasis was on business and real estate, but Philip has other ideas.

"I'm graduating next week," he said at minicamp. "And I wouldn't mind after this whole thing to continue football, whether it's broadcasting or coaching and staying in this field."

Philip (6-1 1/8, 319, 5.27 40, 27 reps, 27 v. jump) is bright and enthusiastic and mentioned Dermontti Dawson as "one of my favorite centers" on draft day. Philip also mentioned his second cousin, Haloti Ngata, and their battles in the Pac-10. If Philip makes the team, he could continue those battles since Ngata was drafted in the first round by the Baltimore Ravens.

Ngata was one of Philip's seven cousins in the Pac-10 last season. They're Tongans and Philip is one of the darlings of the Polynesian media. He was named Student-Athlete of the Year by one Polynesian news service and another, MyPolyNation.com, wondered on draft day "Does anyone else get the feeling that Steelers head Coach Bill Cowher is really starting to dig Polynesians?"

With the Steelers, Philip joins fellow Polynesians Chris Kemoeatu, Shaun Nua and Troy Polamalu. Former Steeler Kimo von Oelhoffen was also a Cowher favorite.

Philip's grandmother lives in New Zealand, but he was born in Hawaii. His Tongan parents migrated to San Francisco in 1971 and earned masters degrees. His oldest brother owns a recording studio in Los Angeles and his middle brother is a bodyguard for the Backstreet Boys. Philip's father, who was a power lifter, wrestler and rugby player in his day, moved back to Tonga and remarried.

The 24-year-old Philip is a long way from home but he enjoys the atmosphere in Pittsburgh.

"It's been great. The vets have been helpful," he said. "You get everything and it kind of mushes together on your plate, but they try to clarify things for you."

How does he expect to make a team that already has two veteran centers?

"I just want to take everything in stride," Philip said. "I'm excited to be here and I just want to learn as much as I can. Whatever I can do to get on that field, that's what I'm going to do."


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