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Behind the ball: Jalyn Phillips’ journey to Clemson

Aralynn Minnick, Asst. Photo Editor

Clemson safety Jalyn Phillips (25) plays in the Tigers’ 2022 Spring Game in Memorial Stadium.

Senior Clemson football safety Jalyn Phillips sat down with The Tiger and told his story. In his interview, Phillips detailed the impact football has had on his life and how Clemson has profoundly impacted the person and player he is today.
Madison Stephenson: Where did you grow up and how were you introduced to football?
Jalyn Phillips: I grew up in Lawrenceville, Georgia. It is in Gwinnett County, which is about an hour and 30 minutes away. I grew
up playing football since I was four years old. My family grew up playing football. My dad played, and two of my brothers played. So, learning from them and the trainer I had growing up, I really adapted to the game. I grew up in it.
MS: At what age did football transition from something you did as an extracurricular activity to something more serious?
JP: I would say around middle school. My brothers took it seriously, and
they would be on me and everything. Growing up with them, I felt like I had to take it seriously, like I had no choice. I had a trainer. My dad was paying money for me to have a trainer. I had no choice but to take it seriously. I didn’t want to waste his money and let him down.

MS: What would you say are your goals beyond Clemson and how do you feel being a football player at Clemson has shaped you in striving towards those goals?
JP: My goals beyond Clemson, of course, is to go the NFL and have a good NFL career. But really, I want to get into the business world, make money and build relationships with a lot of people. I want to become a broadcaster as well, real estate, there’s a lot of things I want to do beyond football. Just building my life beyond football. Clemson really helps me develop and helps develop us into young men who build relationships with a lot of people and companies.
MS: Was there a moment growing up where you felt you really loved football and it meant something more to you than just a sport?
JP: I would say starting in high school. I was seeing people get recruited and noticing that you can get your whole college paid for. I feel like that really motivated me to take my game to the next level and take it seriously. I didn’t want my parents to have to pay for me to go to college. I took it seriously. I got in the game and I got a playbook. I got into film. I worked on my craft.
MS: Was there a particular coach or mentor you had growing up that you feel shaped you as a football player and the person you are today?
JP: I would say my trainer and coach, Art Harris. He really mentored me growing up, along with my parents. They helped me get to where I am at today. Going through a lot of adversity and life challenges, they pushed me to get to where I’m at.
MS: What would you say was your biggest obstacle playing football and ultimately getting the opportunity to play at Clemson?
JP: It’s probably going through all the hard stuff, adapting to it and being able to learn from it. Most people have their head down when they are going through something bad, but I just look at it as an opportunity to get better. Going through the bad stuff, learning from it and getting better from it.
MS: What led you to Clemson and what about Clemson solidified your choice to come here?
JP: I really wanted to stay close to home. Georgia is really not that far from here. I wanted my family to be able to drive up any time. I am a big family guy. I love my mom. I love my dad. I love all my brothers and sisters. One of my coaches, Coach Conn, is from Gwinnett County—where I am from. He coached at Grayson High School, which was my high school rival. That’s a pretty cool story there. Him having that familiar lifestyle where I grew up, we had a really good connection.
MS: What is something that you feel people may not know about being a student-athlete and the work it takes to be a football player at Clemson?
JP: Time management and the busy schedule. I woke up this morning at 5 a.m., went to lift and went to school, managed homework, went to practice and managed the playbook. So, I would just say time management-wise, doing all those things and staying consistent with it.
MS: How has your time at Clemson shaped you into the person
you are today?

JP: It has shaped me to be a better man. It has shaped me to have better faith. It has definitely shaped me. I overcame a lot of things as a freshman. My freshman year didn’t go as I wanted, but that really taught me to be strong, stay in there, keep my head down and keep grinding. It really shaped me into the man I am today. I have grown up. I was really childish when I came here. Now, I am 20 years old and a senior. It goes by fast, but I have definitely grown from when I first came here.
MS: What has been your favorite memory thus far being a Clemson football player?
JP: I don’t think I can pick, there are so many. I would say hanging out with my brothers on this team. [Andrew Booth Jr.], he’s going to the draft now. We went to the same high school. All of the guys I met, all my best friends, they are from Detroit, Connecticut and Virginia. I never thought I would come to Clemson and meet guys from all over the universe. It is crazy. Really, hanging out with them, whether it is going out to eat, going bowling or going to a movie, just having that time away from football and hanging out with my brothers has been
really important.

MS: A lot of young kids dream of being a football player at Clemson. What advice would you give to a young kid who wants to play football at Clemson?
JP: Work hard. Work hard for what you want. Put your head down and keeping working. Don’t listen to critics or anybody trying to downplay you. Keep going at it, get those grades right and work hard on the field and it will come.
Interview responses were edited for length and clarity.
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