Phillips commits to UM-Crookston

BLUE EARTH – The South Central Conference’s two-time quarterback sack leader will take his lethal pass-rushing skills to the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference in the fall.

Blue Earth Area senior linebacker/standup defensive end Gus Phillips signed a national letter of intent on Wednesday to play football for the University of Minnesota Crookston Eagles next season.

“I was looking at schools with ag-business majors and the University of Minnesota Crookston has one of the best programs in that field in the state,” Phillips said in reference to one of the reasons why he selected the Division II school.

“I was impressed with the coaching staff there, too. They made me feel like a part of their (football) family from the first time I talked to them. I’d also like to be a part of a new generation of players who’ll help turn their program back around,” Phillips said in reference to the Eagles’ rebuilding project on the heels of a 2-9 campaign last fall.

The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Phillips definitely possesses all the skills required to lend a helping hand to fuel the Eagles’ resurgence after amassing 14 quarterback sacks during his final two prep seasons on the gridiron.

“Gus is one of those guys who just has a knack for coming off the edge and finding the quarterback,” said Blue Earth Area mentor Randy Kuechenmeister. “He’s definitely a game-changer. In fact, his performance during the (2012 Class 3A) state championship game speaks for itself.”

Indeed. Phillips wreaked havoc in the Rochester Lourdes backfield by recording nine tackles, including three sacks, to help Blue Earth Area close out a perfect season via a 30-7 victory in the state finals at the Metrodome. Phillips also blocked a first-quarter field goal and a third-quarter punt for good measure.

While the two-time Sentinel All-Area selection is known for his defensive prowess, the two-time all-SCC choice also delivered impressive numbers on the offensive side of the line of scrimmage.

Phillips piled up 708 yards and six touchdowns from his flanker position last fall after generating 645 yards and 10 TDs on 78 carries during his junior campaign.

As for what position he will play at the next level, it’s a matter of where Phillips tips the scales at when he arrives for training camp at the University of Minnesota Crookston in August.

“I cut from 185 (pounds) in football to about 164 for wrestling, so what position I’ll play will depend on what I weigh when I get there in the fall,” said Phillips. “If I’m around 190 to 200, I’ll probably get a chance to play defensive line or linebacker. If I’m lighter, then maybe running back on offense.

“As far as I’m concerned, I’ll play wherever they need me to play.”

“He’s got all the tools to play at the next level – he’s coachable, has a good attitude and really likes to play,” said Kuechenmeister.

While Phillips possesses an outstanding prep football resume, the Blue Earth Area senior standout knows there will be a lot of hard work to do before putting on the shoulder pads at the collegiate level.

“I’m sure it’ll be a big wakeup call for me,” Phillips said with a chuckle in reference to the increased speed of the game at the Division II plateau. “It’ll be a totally new experience for me, and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”