Friday Night Hero: A.L. Brown's Kalif Phillips
By Mike London
KANNAPOLIS – A.L. Brown coach Mike Newsome says Kalif Phillips is still not 100-percent healthy, but the Wonders are grateful for the 80 or 90 or whatever percentage that Phillips is able to give.
Phillips injured a toe in a win against Central Cabarrus on Sept. 21. He returned on Oct. 12 in the loss to Hickory Ridge,
“I got hurt because I wasn’t going to accept a short gain,” Phillips said. “I kept pushing for the extra yards because I don’t want to go down without a fight. Guess I paid for it.”
For the record, Phillips spent time getting treatment on Monday, but then he headed to practice.
“We do try to take it easy on him in practice,” Newsome said. “But it’s great having him because you can tell the difference in all our players on the days he practices and the days he doesn’t. He lifts everyone’s confidsence because he plays football at a whole different level than most people. The only negative is he’s so good that sometimes our kids sometimes will stand around waiting for Kalif to make a play.”
No one questions the Shrine Bowler’s talent and no one questions his desire. He’s one of the state’s best, and there are people in A.L. Brown’s program who will tell you he’s the best there has been in Kannapolis since Nick Maddox in the late 1990s – and that span includes some very talented people.
“Kalif is a star, but he doesn’t play this game for the stats or the glory or even for the wins,” Newsome said. “He plays because he loves it, and as a coaching staff we can appreciate that because we love this game too and we coach this game just as hard as we can.”
Phillips arrived on the scene as a junior, getting a chance to shine when UNC signee Damien Washington went down with an early injury. He went on to pile up 1,589 rushing yards and 370 receiving yards, and he scored 31 touchdowns for a 12-2 team.
Phillips entered this season as the ringleader of a potentially unstoppable offense and hasn’t disappointed. Even missing two full games and parts of two others, he has 1,142 rushing yards, 344 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns. He has a kickoff return for a touchdown and he has even blocked a fistful of punts on special teams.
“He’s got a fire, a real passion for football,” running backs coach Scott Jordan said. “As good as he is, there’s no feeling of entitlement with Kalif. He works each day like he’s trying to earn playing time.”
Phillips is as physical as he is fast, extraordinarily physical, Jordan says, for someone who is 5-foot-10, 190 pounds.
Northwest Cabarrus found that out Friday in Brown’s 49-20 victory. Phillips was not only the team’s offensive player of the week, he also was named “Hitman” of the week for steamrolling a Northwest DB.
“I was starting to feel like the old me a little bit,” Phillips said with a smile. “He probably thought I was going to try to go around him, but I saw the opportunity and just trucked him. I wanted to keep running. I don’t like to go down.”
There was a play on Friday in which another Wonder was carrying the ball with Phillips as a decoy.
“Someone said that there was no one for Kalif to block, but I knew he’d find one,” Newsome said. “Then you hear his loud WHAP!, and you know Kalif found somebody.”
Heading into its annual struggle with Concord tomorrow, Brown (8-2, 5-1 SPC) doesn’t have its starting quarterback and isn’t expected to have its Shrine Bowl receiver.
But the Wonders do have Phillips. He’s getting closer to 100 percent, and he doesn’t like to go down.
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