WAYNE, N.J. - It's a bit ironic that the kickoff for the jersey presentations for the 10th anniversary for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Tuesday featured two five-star prospects who have been in limelight for years and a four-star from New Jersey who would rather deflect the attention from himself. But despite his modest ways, Wayne (N.J) De Paul Catholic wide receiver Shakim Phillips took everything in stride.
"I'm a quiet person, but this is such a great honor and I'm glad to receive it in front of my school and especially my teammates, coaches and family," said the 6-foot-2, 191-pounder who received his Army jersey on the same day as Temple (Texas) High star running back Lache Seastrunk and Moreno Valley (Calif.) Rancho Verde five-star defensive end Ronald Powell. "To be picked for this game and to represent my school and my state is exciting. I can't wait to get down there and enjoy the experience."
Phillips, who had 40 catches for 765 yards and 10 touchdowns as a junior and also scored running the ball and returning kicks, is the lone representative from the Garden State, a rarity for a state that recently produced seven first-round draft picks including former U.S. Army All Americans Eugene Monroe and Brian Cushing.
"It's an honor to be the only one selected from New Jersey and it makes me work harder to represent Jersey football," he said. "It would be great if there were others from the state on the team, but I'm looking forward to meeting new people and continuing the tradition. I was all smiles when I found out I was selected and I was just really happy about it."
Phillips started following the U.S. Army All-American Bowl about three years ago and, like many, dreamed of playing in it since then.
"Just seeing it on TV and seeing the crowd and watching all the guys you now see playing in college was fun and of course it's something you'd love to do, but I never really gave it that much thought beyond just dreaming here and there," he said. "Now that it's a reality that I've been selected and to receive the jersey here at school, it's starting to sink in."
Phillips will play his college football at Boston College, a choice he made just a few weeks ago. He will join ex-BC players Shadu Moore and Brian Toal as players who have gone from Jersey high school football to Texas and onto The Heights.
"Everything about Boston College just seemed like a fit," he said. "I'm happy I made my decision and it's the right one for me. I liked the players, the coaches, the environment, the academics and everything about it. Having made that choice allows me to enjoy things like this with my teammates and friends and family because before I decided it was stressing me out in a big way. Now I can just focus on being a senior."
Phillips thanked his head coach, John McKenna, as well as his family and teammates and gave a brief but thoughtful speech in front of a crowd of nearly 1,000 fellow students.
"I just got the speech a couple of days ago so that was a worry," he laughed. "I had a little help putting it together because I didn't want to forget anyone."
As a top student, a senior captain and a player that his own coaches as well as opposing coaches rave about when it comes to character, Phillips is a good fit for the Army Bowl.
"To be a part of a game that also honors our troops makes it even better," he said. "I obviously have a great respect for the U.S. Army and I'm glad that they are a part of this presentation."
"Shakim is a talented athlete whose exemplary displays of leadership and teamwork have made him a standout at De Paul Catholic High School," said Col. Derik Crotts, Deputy Chief of Staff, G7, U.S. Army Accessions Command. "The qualities necessary to succeed on the football field, strength, dedication, leadership and teamwork, are the same qualities mirrored in Army Strong Soldiers. We are proud to honor all of our U.S. Army All-American Bowl players and congratulate them on their selection."
Phillips has one simple goal for the rest of his season and for when he gets down to San Antonio.
"We've had a rough start to our season (1-2) but it's a long season and I just want to go out and make plays and help my team for the rest of the season and then help my team at the Army Bowl," he said. "It's not about one person, it's about the team so as long as we win the game I'll be happy. But I am excited to see what it's all about down there, to feel what it's like to be playing in that game under the dome on national television. I can't wait for the feeling."
Phillips won't have to wait long as the 10th annual U.S. Army All-American Bowl will be held on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2010 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. The annual classic East vs. West matchup will be televised live on NBC at 1:00 PM EST and will feature 90 of the nation's top high school football players.