Western Michigan cornerback Darius Phillips was at his apartment in Kalamazoo with family and friends Saturday afternoon while watching the NFL Draft when he received the call he was waiting for, fulfilling a lifetime dream.
“I was actually in the bathroom when I got the call so no one could know who I was talking with and I came out and didn’t tell anybody anything,” he said. “We just sat and watched; it was a big surprise for them.”
What family and friends would soon learn was that the Cincinnati Bengals had drafted Phillips in the fifth round, with the No. 170 overall pick.
“It was exciting, feels like a surreal moment, especially since you’ve dreamed of this since you were little,” he said.
“I talked to the head coach (Marvin Lewis) and DB coach (Daronte Jones) and they just told me to come out ready to work, that they were excited to have me on special teams and defensive back. My family was so excited, knowing it was close to home.”
The Bengals’ defensive coordinator, Teryl Austin, also has a connection to Michigan, having worked for the Lions in the same role from 2014-17.
Phillips is a multi-talented player who started his career with the Broncos as a receiver, grabbing 32 passes as a redshirt freshman before then-WMU head coach P.J. Fleck moved him to the defensive side of the ball.
The move paid off with Phillips making 12 interceptions, returning five for TDs.
Phillips (Dearborn Heights Robichaud) was an electrifying kick returner, as well. Just ask Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio, who witnessed Phillips’ talent first-hand in the 2015 season opener, when he returned the opening kickoff 72 yards, then scored on a 100-yard kickoff return.
Phillips had another great game in Week 2 at MSU when he returned a fumble 67 yards for a TD after stripping the ball from receiver Hunter Rison. He later scored on a 100-yard kickoff return and also intercepted a pass and broke up three passes.
In the 2017 season opener at USC, Phillips intercepted a Sam Darnold pass and later returned a kick 100 yards for a TD.