BOSTON (CBS) — While missing out on a Pro Day robbed many NFL Draft hopefuls the chance to give prospective teams a first-hand look at what they can do on the football field, there is plenty of college game tape for much of the skill players for NFL coaches and scouts to scour over. Offensive linemen don’t usually have that same luxury heading into the draft, so it comes down to the techniques they would have shown teams during their Pro Day or team visits.
The coronavirus pandemic has required many quarterback protectors, like Boston College right guard John Phillips, to get a bit creative as he looks to land in the NFL. Most of their interviews are now happening virtually, robbing them and coaches the ability to give some hands-on teaching.
“It’s all uncharted territory. It’s as confusing for them as it is for us,” Phillips told WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche — on a Zoom interview. “They try to figure everything out about the person they want to bring onto their team. Not being able to see them in person brings a new set of challenges to see who the person is beyond the tape.”
But like the games he used to play on Saturdays, Phillips said it’s all about your ability to adapt.
“Football is a big game of adversity. Lots of ups and downs with things changing during the game, and this is just another one of those changes. What it’s really about is just staying ready for whatever comes at you,” said the 6-foot-6, 305-pound lineman. “It’s about adapting and finding ways to stay in shape, and just being ready when your number is called.”
Phillips was doing his training in Florida, where he was working out every day and working on specific football drills, including speed and conditioning. After those training sessions, he’d head to a facility and work with trainers. Now back home in Phoenix, N.Y., Phillips doesn’t have any of that at his disposal. But he has adapted thanks to some help from his neighbors, and some free space in his garage.
“I’ve turned my garage into a home gym with whatever I could find. Some of my neighbors have donated stuff and my old high school has given me some equipment,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate, some of my old trainers have been sending me workouts based around what I’ve been able to collect from people.”
Boston College has a reputation for always having a stout offensive line, and it showed throughout the 2019 season as running back A.J. Dillon ran wild through the holes Phillips and others opened for him. Phillips was lauded as the leader of the BC offensive line during his time as an Eagle, but is projected to be a late-round selection or undrafted free agent. No matter how he makes it to the league, he’s hoping to join the long line of Boston College linemen to make it to the NFL.
“It would mean the world to me, for my parents to be able to see their son do it, something they’ve supported since I was three. My coaches and everything they put into me,” he said. “It’s almost as a thank you, this is where you helped me get to. I’d be grateful for that.”
Phillips got his degree in business as Chestnut Hill, and if his NFL dream doesn’t come true, he intends to go back to school and get his graduate degree.
“I’ve put my grad degree on hold to give everything I’ve got to chasing this dream. Whenever my dream is over — five years, 10 years, or even this season — it’s something I’d like to go back and finish because it’s something that is very important to me,” he said.
While playing in the NFL is his ultimate goal, getting to go back to Boston College would be a nice consolation prize.
“I loved playing at BC. It’s different than other schools but in a unique way,” he said. “Chestnut Hill is a small community and tight-knit, so you get to know the guys on the team very, very well. That was one of the things that I thought was unique about Boston College, how tight-knit it was.”
Of course, after spending his college career just 25 miles down the road from the New England Patriots, Phillips wouldn’t mind if his next stop is Gillette Stadium.
“That would be awesome being in New England. I spent the last five years there and coach Belichick is just incredible,” he said. ” It would be amazing.”