The Paul Hornung Award in college football is always a special one, it is award to the sport’s “most versatile player” every season. Last year, it was former Michigan ‘Swiss Army Knife’ Jabrill Peppers taking home the honors after playing 15 different positions on the field for the Wolverines and earning consensus All-American honors.
This year’s crop of players on the Hornung Award watch list is another loaded bunch. Among them is Western Michigan utility man Darius Phillips.
Is there anything he can't do?!
— #MACtion (@MACSports) July 18, 2017
Phillips has easily been one of the better and more explosive play-makers in college football, certainly in the MAC and among the ‘Group of 5’ leagues. The Detroit-native and Dearborn Heights Robichaud product has spent time on offense, defense and special teams over his first three seasons in Kalamazoo.
As a freshman, Phillips lined up at wide receiver and totaled 516 yards from scrimmage; 479 of which came in the receiving department. He flipped around to the other side of the ball and played defensive back over the next two seasons. During that time, he’s logged 88 tackles, 34 pass break-ups, and nine interceptions (four last season); four of which were of the pick-six variety.
The versatile Phillips has been a mainstay on special teams for the Broncos during his time there. He’s returned 103 kickoffs and averaged close to 24 yards per return. He’s taken three back to the house, one each season. And he started returning punts just last year, 19 of them for an average of 11.7 yards per return.
Add it all up, and Phillips has 3,514 all-purpose yards through his first three seasons at Western Michigan. The All-MAC first-team defense and All-MAC second-team special teams honoree was named the Special Teams Player of the Year in the conference. He’s the only MAC player in this year’s Hornung Award watch list.
Phillips is one of a handful of Broncos named to various preseason award watch lists over the last week and change. Tight end Donnie Ernsberger was named to the Mackey Award (best tight end) watch list; center John Keenoy was named to the Rimington Trophy watch list; Keenoy and fellow lineman Chukwuma Okorafor both hit the Outland Trophy watch list.