Adams: Andy Phillips not just an elite kicker, but a caring one

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- Chris Samuels

In a day and age where quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers get all the credit for producing wins, it’s a bit of a different story for Utah and its kicker, Andy Phillips.
The former U.S. ski champion has been known for his pinpoint accuracy when it comes to kicking field goals as well as making a number of timely ones to help his Utes get off to a 6-1 start to the season.
Saturday night in Tempe, Phillips had, yet again, an opportunity to back up his nickname of “Automatic Andy” when the kicker trotted out to attempt a go-ahead field goal in overtime against the Sun Devils. He missed what was essentially a warm-up kick, thanks to a ‘clutch’ timeout call from Whittingham, but there was no way the Utah native would miss twice in a row, right?
To the dismay of all Utah fans, the impossible happened as Phillips missed his second straight field goal attempt, something that hasn’t happened all season long for the kicker.
As a fan of the sport and someone who has gone through many “wide-right” situations in my life, it’s easy to gang up on the kicker after he misses a field goal to extend a game. As a kicker, you’re a hero or zero — there isn’t much middle ground.
Although even a half-educated football fan would understand that Phillips in no way, shape or form lost this game for the Utes, I could foresee a lot of hate tweets and comments coming the kicker’s way after his unusual misses.
However, Utah fans proved me wrong. After logging into Twitter to check out fan reactions following the loss, there was nothing but gushing support for the beloved kicker, and I thought to myself, “Well played, Utah fans.”
As previously stated, it’s easy to put all the blame on the kicker. It comes down to a do-or-die moment, and all the pressure is placed on the shoulders of a player who is hardly on the field. These are typically the moments that Phillips lives for.
“Usually those situations are something in which I thrive … ” Phillips said. “No one is harder on themselves than I am on myself.”
You usually hear those words from the star quarterback or a wide receiver. But the kicker, along with his counterpart Tom Hackett, is the star of this football team, and the fact that he is so hard on himself after a 3-for-4 performance kicking the football tells you how much of a competitor he is.
On top of that, give credit to Phillips for sitting down and taking questions after. As an athlete, especially one who had just missed a go-ahead field goal, the last thing you’d want to do is answer the questions of the hounding reporters after the game. However, there he was, sitting down and ready to answer any question thrown his way. Sure, he missed the field goal, but he wasn’t about to shy away from it.
In the end, Utah lost the game and now sits at 6-2, falling behind a bit in the race for the Pac-12 South title. But what the Utes found out in this game was the love their kicker has for the team and its fans.
It’s a perfect marriage, as the fans have come out in full-force support for Phillips. And if I’m Whittingham, the next time a game comes down to the wire in the closing seconds, I won’t even blink an eye calling for No. 39 to get out on the field.
Andy Phillips is one of the best kickers in the nation — there’s no doubt about it. But he also is probably the most caring kicker of them all, a statistic that matters way more than kicks made or missed.
 
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