Harrison Phillips almost couldn’t believe his good fortune.
The Buffalo Bills’ rookie defensive tackle was disappointed when he slid to the third round of the NFL Draft, but that quickly disappeared when he learned where he was going.
“It's fantastic,” Phillips said. “It's one of the best situations I could have come upon in this draft.”
The presence of veteran defensive tackle Kyle Williams is a big part of that for Phillips.
“There's some amazing players in this league, but a five-time Pro Bowler, a 13-year vet to model yourself after is almost more than you could have asked for,” he said. “So I'm very happy with how the cards dealt, and I'm eager to learn.”
Williams has long been a willing teacher. While some veteran players might feel threatened when their team drafts a rookie at their position, Williams’ approach has always been to get young players up to speed as quickly as possible, which benefits the team entire team.
“I think he's done a good job,” Williams said of Phillips. “He's done a good job of really being a sponge in our meetings, kind of picking up on what we're talking about.”
Early in the draft process, Phillips was projected as a possible first-round pick after leading Stanford with 103 tackles – an unheard of number for an interior defensive lineman. That included 17 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks and two forced fumbles, earning Phillips third-team All-American from the Associated Press. He left school a year later to pursue a professional career.
"There are so many drives and motivators that I have to be a successful player,” he said. “Everyone had a pick by the time I got drafted. Thirty-one teams did pass on me, and the Bills were the first ones to pull the trigger. No outside motivation comes from those 31 teams not picking me; it's inside motivation for the Bills picking me. I want to do the best job I possibly can for them.”
Phillips figures to see playing time right away. Coach Sean McDermott is fond of rotating players along the defensive line in an effort to keep them fresh.
“If we can have eight or nine guys that can play at all times, that's going to benefit our whole defense,” Williams said.
Phillips figures to be the first or second reserve off the bench along with Adolphus Washington. Their job will be to give Williams and Star Lotulelei a break without the overall defense suffering.
"I understand whatever role they want me to come in and do, I'll happily accept that role and do my best to fill that,” Phillips said. “It's a long season. First things first, I've got to get to training camp healthy and then earn my spot on the team.”