Adrian Phillips doesn’t flinch when it’s time to dream bigger.
Entering his sixth NFL season, the undrafted free agent safety is a few months removed from his first Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections. His contributions to a 12-4 team that won a playoff game last season left Phillips – who was an unrestricted free agent this offseason – with a decision that ultimately sided with unfinished business in Los Angeles.
“What we’ve built over the last couple of years weighed a lot on my decision [to re-sign],” said Phillips, who was a guest on the Backstage: Chargers Podcast. “I just wanted to be a part of the great things that are happening here. We’re turning the tide and we’re about to take that next big step.”
Phillips, 27, has played a considerable role in the Chargers’ back-to-back winning seasons under Head Coach Anthony Lynn.
Over the last two years, Phillips has appeared in 31 regular-season games with 11 starts, and two starts in the playoffs. He totaled a career-high 94 tackles and nine passes defensed in 2018, but it was his play in another phase of the game that earned him the accolades he was chasing.
“I had no idea I was going to be an All-Pro [on] special teams,” Phillips said. “If you had asked me at the beginning of the year I would have said, ‘Look, I’m gonna be the starting safety. I’m gonna have seven picks.’ … You just never know where God takes you, what path he takes you down. It’s just all about how you react – how you react and how you adapt.”
Perspective, perseverance and professionalism can keep you in the league. At the end of the 2018 season, General Manager Tom Telesco told the story of having to call Phillips into his office eight times to release him.
Telesco said Phillips always handled the disappointment with class. The GM now refers to the player he cut multiple times as the “heart and soul” of a talent-laden defense.
“To see a player finally earn a job on the 53 [-man roster], then earn a role, then earn a starting role and then be an excellent special teamer, and then a huge part of our defense and go to the Pro Bowl,” Telesco said in January. “I mean, that’s a story you can tell other kids for years and years and years [about] what he’s done.”
Telesco’s mantra of draft, develop and re-sign is evident to Phillips at the start of the offseason program. Wins and losses don’t carry over, but continuity counts. The coaching staff and roster largely remain intact from 2018 – an important ingredient when starting over in April.
“Everybody knows if you’re building a house or building something, it all depends on that foundation,” Phillips said. “If your foundation isn’t right, then everything else is going to be rocky.”
As for a smooth 2019 and beyond, Phillips continues to lead by example. He also continues to raise his own bar.
The ring is the thing. A gold jacket down the line would be nice, too.
“I want to be a Hall of Famer one day, and I’m still learning each year,” he said. “[I’m] figuring out different ways to get there.”