Exactly how good is Virginia Tech wide receiver Cam Phillips? If you ask him, you’ll get a straightforward answer.
“I feel like I’m the best receiver in the country,” Phillips said.
Well said. I mean, can you really argue with him? Phillips leads the FBS in receiving yards with 523, is tied for fifth in receiving touchdowns with five and is fourth in receptions with 34. Virginia Tech’s passing attack is really a one-man show, and Phillips is playing the lead role.
Phillips has always been good, even if overshadowed. Playing as the slot receiver last season, he wasn’t talked about as much as guys such as Isaiah Ford and Bucky Hodges in what was a record-setting season for Virginia Tech’s offense. Quarterback Jerod Evans set single-season records in passing yards and touchdowns, while Ford set career records in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.
Now, Phillips is setting his own records, like making a reception in 31 straight games. Phillips is also in range to break Ford’s records for career receptions, yards and touchdowns.
“(Ford) already knew it wouldn’t be much to break the records,” Phillips said. “He was saying, ‘It should be easy for you to get,’ and I still talk to him weekly. (Tuesday), actually, he just asked what’s the gameplan, what are they looking like on film and stuff like that. There’s no hostility, nothing like that. Records are made to be broken anyway.”
Phillips’ success is finally receiving attention outside of the Virginia Tech realm. Phillips received one fifth-place vote in ESPN’s most recent experts’ poll for the Heisman trophy this week.
“Yeah, it is cool actually,” Phillips said. “Actually, one of my friends from high school actually sent me a picture of it, and I sent it to Isaiah (Ford) and he made a joke, like I made an account for myself and voted for myself.”
As Phillips’ national profile rises, so does Virginia Tech’s. Saturday night’s game vs. Clemson gives Virginia Tech an opportunity to not only pick up a major win, but to get revenge for last season. Tech fell to Clemson in last season’s ACC Championship, a loss that still sticks with Phillips.
“I mean, the loss really,” Phillips said. “That’s it. That’s all that matters. We didn’t win the game. I still remember that. So, that’ll be motivation for preparation this week.”
Still, Virginia Tech is doing their best to focus on the here and now, and now is a big deal. College Gameday is coming back to Virginia Tech for the first time since 2007, an achievement that undoubtedly will boost the Hokies’ profile in the eyes of college football fans.
“I think it speaks volumes, actually,” Phillips said. “Not only to the work the coaches and the staff have done, but the players, to be willing to put in that work and the time and the effort that it takes to be 4-0 and ranked wherever we’re ranked, and having College Gameday here and to play on stages like this. A lot of people don’t get these chances, and I will say that we worked to get here.”
“It’s obviously a fun week this week, in terms of all the things going on outside of the football game, with College Gameday coming here,” Fuente said. “I’m sure Virginia Tech will do a fantastic job welcoming them and provide a great environment. We’ll do a great job.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to show off our community and school,” Fuente said. “Our responsibility is the game, and preparing for a very talented Clemson football team, the defending National Champions.”
Even if they won’t say it publicly, you get the feeling this game means a little more than the others. Virginia Tech not only has an opportunity to take a major step forward as a program, but to avenge last season’s defeat.
“That was last year,” Phillips said. “They have a new team, we have a new team. It’s a different year, but I’m really excited for Saturday for those guys to come in here and for them to get the chance to play us.”
As for Phillips himself, his profile should only continue to grow. He might not win the Heisman Trophy, but he will likely go down as not only one of the best receivers in Virginia Tech history, but also as another player from Blacksburg to make it into the NFL.
“I think I’m still building,” Phillips said. “I think there is a lot more I can do. I think I can still play a lot better. I don’t think I’ve played as well as I can or even as well as I should be, especially with the many opportunities that I get on a week-to-week basis during the game. So, I’m still trying to play my best football. I’m not worried what other people are saying about me or how many yards I have. I just want to go out and play better than I did the previous week.”