Stanford's "Horrible Harry" dominates on the football field, donates his time off

He is affectionately known as “Horrible Harry,” after the children’s book series of the same name. 

Harrison Phillips is a big man, and a big presence.  He’s Stanford’s leading tackler – a rarity for a defensive tackle – and a legit All-America candidate.

“I like to be physical and violent,” Phillips said. “I'm definitely not gonna shy away from somebody throwing punches.” 

And to his teammates, he’s a leader. Fellow defensive tackle Mike Williams acknowledges Phillips’ influence. “We always tell him we go as he goes.”

Cardinal head coach David Shaw echoes that sentiment.

“There's something to be said for effort.  Maximum effort every play.  He's playing hard, he wants to wreak havoc inside.”

But irony runs thick here.  Because the truth is, Harrison is about as far from “horrible” as you can get.  The bully on the field is a champion of the underdog off of it.

“There is a bipolar aspect to it,” said Phillips.  “I'm hungry, one of us is gonna eat and it's gotta be me, but there's also this caring person that says off the field you're hungry, eat my food.  Just always wanting to pay it forward.  If someone needs my shirt, I’ll give them my shoes as well.”

Instead of his shirt or shoes, Harrison gives his time, his heart, and his soul.  He works with two non-profits – one that educates high school players about concussions, and the other – called “Playmakers” – an after-school program in Sacramento that targets “at-risk” students.

“It's a three tiered approach that attacks literacy skills, character values and physical activity,” said Phillips.  “The numbers that we have, overall character change is these kids is monumental and can be seen really well.”

And the kids light up when they see Phillips. Teammate Jovan Swann witnessed the kid’s raw joy when Harrison shows up. “When Harrison walks into the building they're all jumping on him, happy and excited – it's pretty cool to see.”

Amid all that, Harrison somehow finds time to tutor kids in east Palo Alto - as part of his “education” minor, which supplements his double-major, and of course, the rigors of Stanford football – for whom he is a team captain.  Mind-boggling multi-tasking.

“Dude has two majors and a minor,” said Swann.  “It's like, how do you do all those things here at Stanford and then assist the kids, be an active role model for so many people around while being such a key player for the Stanford football team and it's like… wow.”

Minutes are never left wasted and throwing assignments on the back-burner simply does not exist for Phillips. 

“I don't like to waste time and I don't like to procrastinate,” said Phillips.  “When I have an assignment I turn it in early.  Teacher will say, ‘You turning in a draft?’ I say, no I'm done.  I always plan really well.  I have a lot of things going on, moving pieces, but I'm able to organize myself very well.”

But among those moving pieces, those many passions, there’s little question which one comes first.

“My favorite thing to do is play football,” Phillips said. “I came here to play football I'm gonna play as long as I can.”