Far from Oklahoma, Bulldog fullback Brenden Phillips discovered his love for football in the most unlikely of places — Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.
Phillips is an Air Force child and has spent the better part of his childhood moving from place to place. Eventually, the Air Force brought Phillips and his family to Altus and it is where he has been for the past four years.
Since leaving Alaska the first time, there have been many events that have shaped Phillips’ life and turned him into the person and the player that he is today.
A detour to Virginia is where Phillips’ put his football career on hold and took up lacrosse, but it didn’t take long for him to realize something was missing.
“I started football when we first moved to Alaska and I fell in love with the thrill of tackling people” Phillips said. “I started as a defensive end but after my first year of moving, I moved to Virginia and started playing lacrosse. I loved it but I missed the feeling of being able to hit someone.”
Then tragedy struck Phillips and his family when his sister passed away.
Phillips moved back to Alaska to live with his mom before finding out he would be coming to Altus.
“I moved to Altus that summer and started playing football again, but my first football experience was a heat stroke,” Phillips said. “Coach [Jeremy] Reed came along after that and I was moved to fullback and linebacker. I loved playing linebacker but hated fullback. I was a linebacker on the freshman team and was doing great but was moved to nose guard after the first year. I still liked it but I started to love running the ball and my goal was to one day play under the Friday night lights as a starter for God, my mom and my sister.”
It was during his first year in Altus that Phillips experienced the true meaning of being a member of the Bulldog brotherhood.
Phillips’ mother was deployed and he lived with a teammate during that school year.
“That is what makes this family so special,” he said. “They are actually my family and not my team and I will go out there every day and put it all on the line for them because last year, my mom deployed again and I had to move away. I got the chance to come back this summer and I said ‘yes’ right away.”
Upon his return, Phillips rejoined the Bulldogs and was named as the fifth-team fullback. It is not where he wanted to be, but he made it his goal to become the starter and it didn’t take long for his dream to come true.
But Phillips realized something else upon his return and that was that his goal of becoming the starter was insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
“Even if I never play another down of football, as long as I have my brothers with me, it doesn’t matter,” Phillips said. “They missed me when I left and they accepted me back.
“Now my goal is to be the best family member for all of them because this truly is my family,” he said. “They are here whenever I need them and I’ll be there for them whenever they need me. That’s what it means to be family and there is no place I’d rather be than here in Altus, Oklahoma with the brotherhood.”
The brotherhood is a huge piece of what Phillips was missing in his time away from Altus but more than that, Phillips also missed the community.
The Altus community eats, sleeps and breathes Bulldog football. That is evident by the standing room only crowd each Friday night whether the game is at Hightower Memorial Stadium or Vernon, Elk City or Del City.
The support they show to Bulldog football has gone beyond anything Phillips and most of his teammates could imagine.
“I love the support the community gives when we go to home games.,” Phillips said. “The stadium gets so packed that people are standing or on the visitor’s side. When we go to away games, we bring so many we take up some of their stands.
“The community make me feel like I’ve lived here my whole life,” he said. “When a little kid walks up to me and says, ‘you play for the Bulldogs, right?’ When I tell him ‘yes,’ his face lights up with joy and I can’t help but feel happy. On Friday nights’ I strive to make everyone of my brothers better and I push myself as hard as I can for them.”
Last season, Phillips rushed for 128 yards on 22 carries while scoring once. This season, Phillips has far surpassed that mark and has become the go-to back when the Bulldogs need to make room.
Phillips is consistently gaining four or more yards every time he touches the ball and against Duncan on Friday, he had a 20-yard touchdown run and added a second four-yard touchdown run with 1:38 remaining in the game.
He finds a hole and he punches through the line, shedding tacklers and running over any who will not get out of the way.
“It is my goal to never be taken down by one person and to get at least five yards each time,” Phillips said. “My motivation comes from my drive of not wanting to fail the community.”
“I am able to make these plays from all the hard work and lifting I do and I can only make those plays because of my family on the line who pick apart the defense on every single play,” he said. “We are so successful because of our chemistry as a team. This offense is like a machine and it won’t work without the other parts.”
As part of that machine, Phillips knows that he must be at his absolute best to ensure that the team succeeds when his number is called. He knows what is expected of him and he does everything in his power to make it happen every snap.
“My goal is to get better each day and improve the people to my left and right,” Phillips said. “The reason I will achieve this goal is because of my relentless mentality and drive to want more on every single down. We follow the verse, ‘the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.’ Our family only has laborers so I see a great season for our harvest.”
Once his season is over and Phillips goes on to graduate high school in May, there are plenty of things he will miss about playing football for the Bulldogs.
He built a bond with each player and the coaches on the team and he is going to miss playing with his brothers the most.
Phillips has played this game with as much heart as any other player who has ever been a part of the program and he has done so for many different reasons, but he has had help along the way with two people who have impacted his life for the better: His mother and his coach.
“My mom practically raised me by herself and I wouldn’t be here today without her,” he said. “She has shown me what true mental strength is and how to overcome any obstacle in my way.
“Coach [Todd] Vargas has shown me how to be a man. He instilled a drive in me and showed me to always keep fighting and that no matter what, you can always get better. He is the reason I play football at such a high intensity level. He showed me that positive energy will always overcome the negative. He also taught me what it means to be a leader, that sometimes you have to turn the other cheek and be a champion.”
Reach Ryan Lewis at 580-482-1221, ext. 2076.