It's not very often that a prospect from Nebraska elects to play football out of state instead staying home to be a Husker. In fact it hasn't happened since 2008 when Elkhorn offensive lineman Trevor Robinson picked Notre Dame over Nebraska.
You can now add Omaha (Neb.) Millard West defensive lineman Harrison Phillips to the list as he announced his commitment to Stanford on Monday over Twitter. In an interview with HuskerOnline.com Phillips said it was a tough decision, but one he is relieved to have finally made.
"Every detail I had to weigh from the fan base, to playing time, to location, to where my family is and all of that I just weighed it all and the school that came out on top is why I'm officially committed to Stanford University," Phillips said. "It was real hard to make the decision but at the same time it feels so good."
Phillips said he spent the past couple of weeks laying low and figuring his future plans out. After much thought he finally informed the coaches of his decision which proved to be one of the hardest things he's ever had to do.
"With all of the excitement going on and with all of the buzz in the air I just kind of wanted to lay low for a bit," Phillips said. "Over the last week I didn't talk to any colleges. Then this week I was calling all of the colleges and letting them know what school I was going to and thanking them for the opportunity. Those were the hardest phone calls I've ever had to make in my life. There was even a phone call where I choked up a bit when I was talking to the head coach.
"The relationships I've built over the past year with some of these coaches have been more like friendships than anything else because they aren't my coaches quite yet. So it was more of a friendship type thing and that's what I struggled with the most."
Phillips said that distance from home was definitely something that weighed heavily on his mind. In the end Stanford's positives outweighed the negatives.
"The toughest decision was just knowing that I would be going somewhere that my family and my friends wouldn't be able to see me play as much," Phillips said. "With Kansas State, it was the relationships. They were the closest school I had been with. With Coach (Bill) Snyder , coach (Del) Miller, and coach (Blake) Seiler - those guys were like friends of mine. With Nebraska it was the fan base and my friends. Everyone was telling me to go there and I'd be working out at Lifetime Fitness and like three little kids would come up to me and tell me to go to Nebraska or I'd be at a gas station and I'd have a random guy tell me to go to Nebraska. Just to see the home town support was phenomenal.
"I'm so excited for Mick Stoltenberg, Luke Gifford and D.J. Foster because those guys are going to get so much love from the fans and I'm glad that they have that opportunity. But with the opportunity I have with Stanford, I know that I could get hurt the second I touch the field and never play again, but I have a safe route with a Stanford degree and with that Stanford education. Of course all of the schools told me they would honor my scholarship with injuries but Stanford just has that edge above the rest with that degree."
Phillips said he feels like he'll fit in well with the Cardinal defense and has a chance at seeing the field early.
"They told me that with their three-man front I'll be the down d-lineman in the five-tech or the three-tech depending on the calls," Phillips said. "They told me that obviously I'll have to come in and earn everything that you can get. Once I come in and get with the strength staff and I keep doing my part with speed and flexibility that there is a real, 100 percent legitimate chance that I'll get playing time as a freshman. They said they don't really like to redshirt, but if that's what they have to do then that's what they'll do. There are a lot of seniors graduating so when I go into my sophomore year they told me that I'll have a chance to start. There's a really great opportunity to come in and earn some playing time early.
"They had the No. 1 defense in the entire country last year and they lead the nation in sacks and tackles for loss so that's a really big honor being able to and play for a defense like that. Coach (Marc) Mattioli, coach (Derek) Mason, coach (Randy) Hart and all of those guys are just all phenomenal coaches and people."
Phillips is a 5.6 three-star defensive end prospect ranked 30th in the nation at his position and considered the fourth best player in the state of Nebraska by Rivals.com.