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GV's Robert Phillips reinvents himself

Golden Valley quarterback spent offseason bulking up after being hampered by illness

Posted: August 23, 2013 9:25 p.m.
Updated: August 23, 2013 9:25 p.m.
Golden Valley quarterback Robert Phillips was hospitalized for 10 days before his junior season because of Crohn's disease and never got back to 100 percent until now. Golden Valley quarterback Robert Phillips was hospitalized for 10 days before his junior season because of Crohn's disease and never got back to 100 percent until now.
Golden Valley quarterback Robert Phillips was hospitalized for 10 days before his junior season because of Crohn's disease and never got back to 100 percent until now.

Robert Phillips was just an ordinary, football-loving kid in the spring of 2012.

But his mom Tina Phillips could tell something wasn’t quite right with her son.

Phillips was working out everyday, and yet, he was losing weight at a drastic rate.

Doctors told her it was nothing to worry about, but the weight kept dropping and Robert’s fatigue kept growing.

So Tina demanded more tests be run on her son.

“They drew his blood and I was waiting on the result,” Tina says. “As I’m waiting, that next day Robert got up and came into my room and had a major headache. He almost passed out at my bedside. I rushed him to Henry Mayo (Newhall Memorial Hospital) and they ran all these tests — something’s going on.”

Robert’s primary physician sent him to a specialist shortly after the emergency room visit, and finally he had his answers.

“(The specialist) said, ‘I need to see him right way,’” Tina remembers. “I took him the same day and that’s when he said ‘I’ve got to admit him to the hospital — he’s lost too much weight.”

Doctors diagnosed Robert with Crohn's disease, a type of inflammatory bowel disease that usually affects the intestines, but may occur anywhere in the intestinal tract, according to the National Library of Medicine.

Phillips spent 10 days in the hospital, dropping about 30 pounds in the process.

The physical toll the disease took on his body was bad enough, but Phillips says it was also mentally agonizing.

“It was very frustrating. I honestly felt like I couldn’t play that season because I was so down in weight,” Robert says of 2012. “I came out of the hospital at 145 pounds and it had just torn me apart mentally and physically. I was so down and I felt like I can’t even play my junior season of high school football. It’s the most important year for recruiting gradewise and everything at the high school level to get to college.”

The one thing he never did, though, was consider giving up the game.

“No, never any thought because I love the game so much,” he says. “I was going to do whatever it takes to get back on the field and get my body back healthy so I can change the culture at Golden Valley.”

Phillips sat out until the week before the 2012 season began, finally making it back on the field in a backup role for the Grizzlies’ first game against Simi Valley High School.

He played in all 10 of the Grizzlies’ games last season, splitting time under center with the now-graduated Chase Lewis, but says he was at-best at 80 percent healthy.

In that time, Phillips was 52-for-124 for 527 yards and four touchdowns.

Out of the hospital and back on the field, though, didn’t mean life was back to normal — and maybe that was a good thing.

Much more health conscious, now, Phillips says he eats salads two to three times a day, eats plenty of fruits and vegetables, and drinks Muscle Milk with regularity.

He’s put a greater emphasis on working out and getting his body ready for the varsity season — and his coaches, parents and teammates have taken notice.

“He’s a lot different. He’s much more determined and more focused,” Tina says. “That is his goal. He wants to go to college and he knows he’s at the grind point where he has to take care of business.”

But don’t take a mom’s word for it — his teammates see the same thing.

“I wasn’t sure he was going to finish his senior year,” says teammate Terry Tamura. “Then he hit the weightroom like us. He’s training like us. I could see his mind set changed.”

Phillips has grown over two inches, and now stands at 6-foot-3. He’s hit the weight room to the tune of 187 pounds, and hopes to be up above 190 by the time the season begins.

“I’m so much more prepared (this season), I’m so much more confident, bigger, stronger,” Phillips said.

Once a quarterback that almost exclusively stayed in the pocket, Phillips also expects to surprise some defenses with his feet this year — saying he runs a consistent 4.6 40-yard dash, down from 5.2 last season.

“He’s actually made a lot of progression,” says Golden Valley’s Terry Tamura. “When he was in the hospital, he was very skinny and weak. He could barely move. He wasn’t doing well. When he came back, he gained about 20 pounds, went to camps weekly, had a personal trainer that graduated from Stanford.”

That trainer, former Stanford football player Eliel Swinton, has helped Phillips in his transformation from undersized varsity quarterback to future college football player.

Phillips has already received one scholarship offer from Portland State, and says he’s drawn interest from Utah State, Oregon State and Boise State.

“When I first started he was a kid that could not run. He didn’t know right from left with his feet. He wasn’t as physical a runner, he didn’t have strength and I definitely attribute that to him being sick and going through what he went though,” Swinton said. “I’ve been able to see him grow as a runner to become faster. He’s more elusive. He’s quicker, he’s more elusive as a quarterback. It also works into his actual dropback and footwork.”

Those skills should help a team that has primarily been a run-first squad over the last two seasons with All-Santa Clarita Valley running backs Earl Johnson and Leon Jacobs.

“You might see him move around a little bit,” says his coach Robert Fisher. “Everything he can do back there, when he’s faster, quicker, it adds a different dimension. I think everyone is going to see a different quarterback this year. Quite a bit’s on Robert’s shoulders. Any quarterback in this league has a lot of pressure on them, and I think Robert is ready to step up to the plate and handle that pressure.”


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