It’s that time of year again, where the best college players head to the NFL Combine to display their skills on the field and answer countless questions off it. Yesterday was Utah cornerback Clark Phillip III’s day at the podium, and he impressed everyone in attendance.
The biggest takeaway from his interview was what everyone around the Utah program knows all too well: his goal-setting.
“I’m goal oriented. I like to write things down, I put everything down in my little cheap one dollar notebook from the 99 cent store. I write everything down,” said Phillips III. “It started with my freshman year. I talked to the staff about it and let them know a brief summary of my goals; everything aligned with what they wanted to do. I started from game one. I was blessed that they trusted me as a player, as a person and they allowed me to continue to grow as a player to get where I am now.”
It’s a habit that started with his father, Clark Phillips II.
“My dad was super big on that,” said Phillips III. “Everything that we do as a family we try to set up every single next step, every single next process, every single next phase by writing down what we want to accomplish. It’s been a habit I formed since early high school.”
The talented corner came to Utah with one career goal: to be ready for the NFL after three years.
When Phillips III first came to Utah, he did so knowing he was stepping into the shoes of Utah’s last elite cornerback and current Chicago Bear, Jaylon Johnson.
“We talked in the offseason, [Jaylon] came down at the end of last season,” said Phillips. “We sat down and watched a little film with Coach Shah and we studied a little bit. I got to show some of the things that I watched about him and his film at Utah, practice in games. He’s a good dude.”
“He’s super focused, great technique, he’s somebody that’s almost a mentor for me when I went to Utah,” continued Phillips III. “He’s somebody who I really looked up to because I wanted to do the plan that he did: three years and out. Here I am today.”
Like Johnson, Phillips III — the 2022 unanimous All-American and Jim Thorpe Award finalist — is a perfect example of what Utah looks for out of their defensive backs.
“I think I’m just ferocious, nasty,” said Philips III. “At Utah we have a culture. Our acronym is RSNB. That stands for relentless, smart, nasty ballhawks. That’s what I think I am as a football player, that’s what stands out about me and that’s what separates me from the rest of the guys.”
While at Utah, some of his biggest developments began in the film room.
“It starts off with just understanding how to watch a film. My first season I thought I knew how to watch a movie, but I wasn’t really watching,” said Phillips III. “I had to go from watching personnel in specifics, to watching formations, to down and distance. Credit to coach Scalley, coach Shah they taught me how to watch film, year three I felt I put it all together.”
Throughout his three years at Utah, Phillips III said two games specifically sum up his career: his three interception game against Oregon State and the Pac-12 Championship Game versus USC. Against the Beavers, one of the three was a pick-6. Against USC, Phillips III made a game-changing pass breakup in the end zone guarding 2021 Biletnikoff Award winner Jordan Addison.
“Some of my strengths were shown this year, my ball skills and things of that nature. Utah, we played a lot of man, we sent a lot of pressure and I was grateful for that,” said Phillips III. “We played a lot of zone – we were one of the few teams in the Pac-12 to send zone pressures. I think that stands out as well on tape; my comfort on any man scheme, zone scheme that’s what sticks out for me.”
Phillips prides himself as a versatile corner that can adapt to the different looks an offense may show. “A lot of guys can only play one thing, whereas I pride myself on being able to move inside. Whether that be following a guy if he goes to the slot, the running back position, center – I’m going with him. I feel like I can do that. I’m grateful for having that versatility, but I think that’s something teams are going to value, as well.”
As well as Phillips III plays on the field, everything goes back to his character and preparation off of it.
“It starts with a mindset, starts with the confidence the preparation is what I base my confidence on and God in my preparation,” said Phillips III. “I prepare with the best of them – every single week. I think I’m the best guy on the field consistently. It doesn’t matter if I’m going against a guy who is 6-foot-7 or 5-foot-9, my height. I’m going to line up and play.”
Phillips III is a visual learner. That’s why so much of his success goes back to that notebook.
“If my actions aren’t lining up that day with my goals, then I know I’ve got to adjust,” he said.
Taking an early leap to the NFL will be an adjustment not just for Phillips III, but for anyone. It’s his preparation, determination and goal-setting that will separate him from the other cornerbacks in the 2023 class when they line up on Sundays.