Tarleton senior excels on and off gridiron

By BRAD KEITH Sports Editor

It is hard to imagine anyone with the nickname "Dee-Wee" having a serious side. Donít be fooled. Ranardrick Phillips is serious indeed.

The Tarleton senior is serious about his service to the community, serious about education, and this fall, heís especially serious about leading the Texans to a championship season.

Phillips hails from Madison, Fla. where he was a leader on a high school team that won a state championship. He was honored with all-district and all-state accolades, and caught the eyes of college recruiters.

Ranardrick took a windy journey down the college road before ending up on the Tarleton campus in 2005. His first stop along the way came at Alabama State.

"At the time, going to Alabama State was like a dream come true," Phillips said. " It was a great challenge to get out of Florida and make my name known in another state."

Destiny had other plans for Dee-Wee, making his stay at ASU an abbreviated one.

Shifting to the junior college route, Phillipsí next stop was at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas. It was there, as a freshman, that he caught the attention of former Tarleton coaches Todd Whitten and Duane Dirk.

"(Whitten and Dirk) asked me what I thought about coming to Texas and being a Tarleton Texan," Dee-Wee said. "I thought it was probably the best thing for me at the time."

Starting at strong safety as a sophomore, Phillips quickly established a reputation as a tenacious defender capable of delivering massive hits and stopping both the run and pass. He recorded 90 tackles in 2005, picked off one pass and recovered a fumble. Coaches in the Lone Star Conference were quite impressed, voting him the South Divisionís Defensive Back of the Year.

Ranardrick earned a repeat of that accolade last season, as the 5-10, 202-pound star recorded 73 stops including three for loss and one sack. He also broke-up six passes and again had one fumble recovery.

Players like Phillips provide coaches an added dimension when planning defensive schemes.

"Weíll bring him up in run support and drop him back in pass coverage," Tarleton Head Football Coach Sam McElroy said. "Weíll put him on the edge, bring him on the blitz, everything."

As a leader, McElroy says Dee-Wee teaches by example rather than being overly vocal.

"Iím not a real Ďhoo-rahí guy," Phillips said. "Iím very humble. I like to let my actions do the talking and show my teammates what we can do if we work together."

Ranardrick is an exercise and sports studies major with a minor in business administration. Perhaps the greatest personal honor he will receive is earning his degree in May.

"Thatís very important to me," he said of graduating. "Iím the first one in my family to go to college, and I want to be the first one to get my degree. Thereís a lot of obstacles that can get in your way in life, but a degree can help you get through them."

In the community, Phillips has been just as big a star as he is on the playing field. He recently traveled with teammates and coaches to spend time with kids at Cook Childrenís Medical Center in Fort Worth, and has also been active in Meals on Wheels in Stephenville.

"He is very special as a player and as a person," McElroy said. "Heís the type of guy you would love to have as a son."

Dee-Wee shares similar feelings about McElroy and his staff.

"They have shown me that itís about more than just being a good football player. Itís about being a good person, too. The coaches have been like father figures to me."

Back on the field, Phillips has set big goals for both himself and the Texans this fall. He is working toward a potential three-peat as DB of the Year, something that has not been done in the LSC as far back as records could be tracked. As a unit, Dee-Wee plans to help the defense shut down opponents and give the offense a chance to win games.

"We want to win a championship," he stated in his most serious tone. "Thatís the big goal."

All the acclaim on the gridiron is great, but itís the lessons in life and living it off the field that will carry Phillips to greatness after football.

"Everybody sees you with the helmet on," he concluded. "But when itís off, you have to press on in life."

Not a bad perspective. Especially for a guy nicknamed "Dee-Wee."

Photos courtesy of Tarleton Sports Information