YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Following a standout playing career at Ursuline, James Phillips officially signed to play college football at Western Michigan last December.
“You get noticed for a lot of what you do on the field,” Phillips said. “But no one really knows your personality or what you’ve been through behind your story.”
Phillips has been through a lot. Since 2009, he’s suffered the loss of his mother, two sisters and a cousin, who were all victims of murder.
“I feel like the pain is what pushed me to go harder,” Philips said. “I know I still gotta live. I know I can’t just sit and dwell on the situation. It hurts, of course, but I can’t let it sit in me. I feel like football is what takes its mind off of it and I know it’s something that is gonna make them happy.”
During his career with the Irish, Phillips played seven different positions and was fueled by the memory of his lost relatives.
His strength hasn’t gone unnoticed. He was recently named the recipient of the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s Courageous Student Award, which is presented to a student who demonstrates courage in the face of adversity.
“It’s way more life than anything,” he said. “You gotta think, you’re only on the field for 60 minutes. You’re practicing two hours max. You’ve got a lot of hours left in your life. You gotta make sure you’re doing something productive with that. I feel like what I’ve been through and everything that comes behind it — I’m proud of myself.”
As Phillips enters the college ranks, his focus remains fixed on being a workhorse. He is eagerly awaiting his first chance to take the field at the next level at WMU.
“It’s gonna be an amazing feeling because I’ve been waiting on that moment my whole life,” he said. “But at the same time, it’s not the end of the journey. I want to go pro so I’m just gonna go take care of my business.”