Lucas at Large: Phillips determined to bounce back again

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FB_111013_Phillips_Curt.jpgCurt Phillips was patient with the questioner who had lost track of the count.

Phillips was OK with that memory lapse. Just don't count him out. Not yet.

"Three surgeries,'' said Phillips, the 21-year-old UW quarterback. "I've had three ACLs.''

All three anterior cruciate ligament procedures have been performed on his right knee.

"After the third one,'' said Phillips, a senior from Kingsport, Tenn., "they don't think that having additional surgeries compounds it or makes it any worse.

"I honestly think having the experience of having done it twice is going to help me. I'll be able to push it. While I say that, I want to be safe. I know what I can do to progress it.

"I don't really have a timetable,'' added Phillips, who's working on his second major.

"I want to make sure I do everything right and heal up this time, however much time it takes. Obviously, I'd like to get as much spring ball as I can but ultimately I need to be ready to go next fall.''

Phillips was speaking after Tuesday's practice, during which he spent most of his time standing next to Nate Tice, one of the backup quarterbacks who signals plays on to the field during game days.

Phillips is planning on standing next to Tice on Saturday, too, when the Badgers play Homecoming host to the Indiana Hoosiers at Camp Randall Stadium.

"I'm excited to get back on the sidelines even though I'm not playing,'' said Phillips, who will not be in uniform. "I've been watching the games from the press box.

"Just having the headset back on and communicating (with the other quarterbacks and offensive coordinator Paul Chryst) is definitely a step in the right direction and I'm excited for it.''

Phillips has not played in a game since the 2009 season. He first tore his ACL during a spring scrimmage in March of 2010 and then tore it again during practice in early November of the same year.

Last spring, Phillips took some reps in seven-on-seven, non-contact passing drills, which prompted UW coach Bret Bielema to say afterward, "He's kind of a genetic freak.''

Subsequently, though, a knee infection necessitated a third surgery.

"Honestly, the second time it happened might have been even more frustrating than the third time,'' he said, "just because I knew that there wasn't anything I could have done about the last one.

"It wasn't like I made a move too quickly on the field. It was an infection and I couldn't control it. The only thing I can control now is the effort that I'm putting into it (the rehab) to come back.''

The school will have to petition the NCAA in order to get Phillips another year of eligibility. "I haven't played in two seasons,'' he said pleading his case. "That's kind of what the rule is for.''

That begs the question, why? Why does he still want to play football?

"When something is taken away from you that you love it shows you how much you do love it,'' Phillips said. "It shows you how you take certain things for granted. Now you're even more hungry.''

Throughout the multiple surgeries and rehabs, Phillips has been grateful for many things in his life, not the least of which has been the support of his parents, Jim and Drenda.

"Obviously, they're looking out for my health in the long run,'' he said, "but they never wanted to tell me what to do. They leave the decisions up to me.''

It doesn't hurt that Phillips' dad is a radiologist.

"Being a physician, he knows what's going on,'' he said. "While he's not an orthopedic surgeon, he can communicate with the physicians here. He always makes sure I'm informed.

"My mom is just hoping for no more surgeries. She doesn't necessarily want me to give it up. They've both been very supportive and encouraging through the whole thing.''

If his knee heals, what kind of quarterback can Curt Phillips still be?

"I honestly I think I will be a more complete quarterback,'' he said, adding that he has picked up things from watching Scott Tolzien and Russell Wilson. "I've been able to learn from both guys.''

This fall, Phillips has also shared some of his frustrations with quarterback Jon Budmayr, who has been sidelined indefinitely with an elbow injury that has resulted in some nerve damage to his arm.

"Jon is a good friend,'' Phillips said, "and we've talked about things. He's kind of in the same boat. But he's extremely self-motivated and I have no doubt he will be ready to go, too.''

The operative word would be "too.''

Phillips is counting on being ready -- too.

"Initially when I was on crutches, I wasn't really around that much,'' he said of practice. "But the past two weeks, I've been around the team more and it has been kind of a pick-me-up.''

His dad has shared a Neil Young line with him: Better to burn out than to rust out, or fade away.

"I think that applies,'' Curt Phillips said.

2 Comments

Great update. Curt Phillips is a special athlete, very intelligent and a great young man. Looking forward to seeing Phillips leading the Badgers next season! Please keep us updated on his continued rehab this fall & winter.

I'm rooting for Phillips as well as for the "Next Up" QBs for the program after Wilson leaves. I do hope someone puts the suggestion to Coach Bielema that there is another ACC QB who is graduating this year with TWO years of eligibility left who has just lost his job after a great Freshman year. Dan O'Brien of Maryland. He was even born in Minnesota.

ON WISCONSIN