INDIANAPOLIS – Stanford defensive tackle Harrison Phillips is a Sean McDermott kind of guy.
You know the Buffalo Bills coach loves wrestlers, having been a two-time national prep champion back in 1992 and '93. Phillips was a Junior National wrestling champion in 2013 and a three-time Nebraska state champion.
Phillips is an A-plus on the character scale. He graduated from Stanford with a double major and earned Academic All-America. He throws around terms like "intellectual brutality."
At 6-foot-3 and 307 pounds, Phillips draws comparisons with Buffalo's Kyle Williams, and he even looks a little like Williams (without the beard). Phillips even mentioned the word "process" four times in a 10-minute interview with the media Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine.
"We kind of coined the term intellectual brutality at Stanford, and that's actually how I play," Phillips said. "Very intellectual, can anticipate plays, and when it comes down to it, I want to be violent and brutal."
Phillips was among the many players who the Bills met with this week in Indianapolis. He would fit a glaring need at defensive tackle, since Williams is unsigned and turns 35 in June. Even if the Bills sign a defensive tackle in free agency, they still could use another one in the draft.
Whether the Bills' draft position fits Phillips' draft standing is too early to tell. Phillips is rated the fifth-best DT prospect by ESPN analysts Mel Kiper and Todd McShay and the NFL Network's Mike Mayock. Kiper and McShay both rate him early in the second round. NFLDraftScout lists Phillips as the No. 28 overall prospect. NFL.com's Chad Reuter pegs him 26th. Buffalo's current picks are at 21 and 22.
Phillips no doubt is helping himself at the combine with his engaging personality. He also bench-pressed 225 pounds 42 times, the most of any player at any position since 2012.
Phillips says his wrestling background is a key to his success.
"The physical parallels – the hips, hands, fluidity, balance, things like that – help," Phillips said. "But there's also the mentality part. In wrestling, it's you and another person. You can't blame your shoes for slipping. You can't blame your coaches for the plan call. You can't have any excuses. It's you let another man beat you. In the same way, that's kind of the trenches. And sometimes, the offensive line needs two people to try and do that where it's a 2-on-1. But that's fine, the more the merrier. I would just say it prepared me in the mindset and physically. If my kids want to be football players, I want them to wrestle."
Phillips is a little stouter than the Bills' Williams, but he has a ways to go to prove that he can be as disruptive a penetrator as the Bills Pro Bowler.
"The first tape I popped on I said this looks like Kyle Williams coming out of LSU," said NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah. "He reminds me so much of him, the strength, the power. I think he's a little underrated with his quickness and never stops with the motor."
Phillips has been training with longtime NFL defensive line coach Jim Washburn, who most recently was in Miami. Phillips reveres former Nebraska great and current Miami star DT Ndamukong Suh.
"I've been working with Jim Washburn a lot, and I've been working on becoming a better football player, not necessarily training so much for the combine," Phillips said. "He has Ndamukong Suh as one of his guys. Ndamukong Suh played at Nebraska. I grew up in Nebraska, just watching a lot of his tape and seeing what he did. I think we're similar height-weight wise. I would love to get to that level."
Phillips doesn't have Suh's phenomenal athleticism. If there's a knock on Phillips, that's it. He wins on relentless effort more than elite explosiveness. But Phillips' arm length and wingspan (33 7/8 inches and 80 4/8 inches) both were longer than the other top DTs, which is encouraging. And Phillips' intelligence likely will allow him to get the most out of his ability. Phillips graduated in December with degrees in the science of technology and sociology, along with a minor in education.
"Football always comes first, school is going to sacrifice," Phillips acknowledged. "That's just the way I was. School came easy to me. Spending as much time as I do on football, I had a process after practice to wind down, to turn off the switch, watching a lot of film, writing my notes, texting coach, 'hey, how would I play this? What do you see on this?' That's the process that helps me get away from football. I do that every evening, and then I find the time maybe in the day, in-between classes, in the locker room, before practice, after meetings and do my school work."
Phillips led Stanford in tackles with 103 in 2017, including 17 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. His Twitter handle is HorribleHarry66. It's a reference to the popular children's book series, which his mom, a retired teacher, used to read to him.