Rudy Philips - Offensive Line - 1981-1988 - North Texas
A skinny, bird-legged offensive lineman on a bad team, Rudy Phillips didn't have any options coming out of Lincoln in 1976.
So he got in his VW Bug, drove up I-35 to Denton and walked into North Texas State's football offices.
"Any coaches here?" he asked the receptionist.
And that kind of networking led to an introduction to Hayden Fry, who looked the 6-2, 215-pounder over, listened to his story, shrugged and said, sure, come on out.
Phillips showed promise on the scout team as a walk-on, but playing for free wasn't going to cut it. He explained that he'd worked all summer to save up enough money to walk on at North Texas, and now he was broke. He couldn't pay his way even one more semester.
Fry showed Phillips a depth chart with the bird-legged guard listed seventh team. But at least he was listed. And he got his scholarship.
ner up for the leagues Most Outstanding Canadian award.
From the beginning of his sophomore year forward, Phillips started every game. He never got much bigger, only 225 at his peak. But he was fast and willing and tough, and his motor never stopped.
His first year out of North Texas, Phillips figured he was on his way until he was released by the Steelers on the last cut. Looking for options again, he was reminded of a former North Texas quarterback, Jordan Case, who'd told him about the Canadian Football League. An official with the Ottawa Rough Riders called Phillips soon after and invited him to Canada for a vacation. You know, look the place over.
"I went up there," Phillips said, "and I kinda stuck."
He joined the team the last six games of the '81 season and played in the Grey Cup final against Edmonton, then spent three more years in Ottawa. Two of those years he was named the CFL's outstanding lineman. In '85, he tried the NFL again but was cut by Buffalo. He returned to the CFL in '86, in Edmonton, where he was named All-Canadian for a third time. He also played on Edmonton's '87 Grey Cup champions.
He played one more season, in Calgary, then retired to take a job in Dallas County's health and human services department. He married a woman he met on the job, Regenia, they had a daughter, Rachael, and moved on with his life.
Then one day this spring, he's walking across a parking lot when he gets a call from a guy who says he's the commissioner of the CFL.
Congratulations, he says. You've been elected to the CFL Hall of Fame.
The call stops Phillips cold in the parking lot. "Are you serious?" he asks.
A car horn snaps him out of his shock. The commissioner tells him to call the home office if he doesn't believe it.
He still doesn't.
"Coming from South Dallas to the CFL Hall of Fame," he said, "is still unbelievable."
Especially for a kid who thought far north was Denton.