LINCOLN — Two days and three practices. That's what Stanford gave Harrison Phillips to earn a scholarship at its camp.
By the end of the final workout — after he made seven tackles in a 10-play scrimmage and won a 150-player offensive and defensive linemen drill — the 6-foot-4, 250-pound lineman from Millard West had, indeed, gotten it. The one he'd worked hardest to get.
An offer from home-state Nebraska came three days after he got home from Palo Alto, Calif.
“If Nebraska had offered me six months ago, I probably wouldn't have made that trip to Stanford in the first place,” Phillips said.
But NU didn't. So Phillips took the trip — which led to his commitment to the Cardinal one week ago. He announced it officially on Twitter on Monday afternoon.
“The weight of a degree from Stanford is phenomenal,” Phillips said in a World-Herald interview before the announcement. “Stanford's the best academic school west of the Mississippi River. That's something you can't look past, for sure. The campus is gorgeous. It's 13 miles from the ocean.”
U.S. News & World Report ranks Stanford in a tie for the No. 6 best university in the nation. Its top five are four Ivy League schools and the University of Chicago. On the field, the Cardinal have played in three straight BCS bowl games, including a 20-14 win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl last January. On defense, Stanford has ranked in the top 30 in scoring and total defense in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Stanford also had a precise idea of where the three-star prospect will play — a 3-4 defensive end. In Stanford's defense, Phillips said he could line up as a “5-technique,” or on the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle. Phillips is the first lineman commit in Stanford's class.
Phillips said he has extended family “three or four hours away” from Stanford who will help his immediate family with travel costs to see Phillips in person. And family can always watch Phillips on TV, too.
Cardinal head coach David Shaw, Phillips said, “has been real to me from the very beginning,” talking to Phillips before the Stanford camp and showing him around campus. Phillips called Shaw in Europe, where Shaw is on vacation, before telling the rest of the Cardinal staff. Phillips then started calling other schools in his top six — Duke, Kansas State, Northern Illinois, Nebraska and UCLA.
The Huskers finished tied with Kansas State in Phillips' top three. KSU had developed “the strongest relationships,” Phillips said, particularly head coach Bill Snyder, who had talked to Phillips “15 to 20 times.”
“The hardest phone call I had to make was to Coach Snyder,” Phillips said. The Wildcats run a 4-3 defense.
So do the Huskers, who offered Phillips as an athlete who could play offense or defense. Phillips attended NU's camp in mid-June in hopes of getting an offer immediately after his performance, as he would at Stanford. Nebraska told him it would decide within two weeks — which it did. Coach Bo Pelini personally extended the offer to Phillips. It was the second time, Phillips said, Pelini had talked to the Millard West star during the recruiting process.
The Huskers' offer was a big deal, Phillips said. And NU fans — from a 5-year-old at a fitness center to a guy at a gas station — told Phillips they wanted him in Lincoln. And he expects to hear from a few after his commitment to Stanford, too.
Phillips' response? Nebraska's a “great school” recruiting in-state players well this year. But Stanford is the better fit.
“As I was deciding, each morning when I'd wake up my first thought was 'Stanford,'?” Phillips said.
When he was able to sleep at all.
“It's been really, really stressful,” he said. “Since I've decided, it's been a real weight off my shoulders.”