CHARLOTTESVILLE — Forty fans will enter Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Ind., on Saturday wearing “Wahoosiers” T-shirts in honor of the two boys they came to support. Half of the shirts have “Paul Phillips 86” in red on the front and “Colter Phillips 89” on the back in orange. The names are reversed on the other half of the shirts.
For the Phillips brothers — both of whom attended Georgetown Prep — Saturday’s matchup between Virginia (1-0) and Indiana (0-1) will mark the culmination of months of trash talk. Colter, a redshirt junior, is the Cavaliers’ starting tight end. Paul, a redshirt freshman, is a reserve tight end for the Hoosiers.
Colter said Wednesday he and Paul typically talk to each other every day, but their communication has been noticeably less frequent this week.
As for what he expects their interaction to be like after the game, Colter said “it will be the kind of thing where after the game we won’t really talk about it for a while, but a couple months from now the trash [talk] will start to come from both sides. It will be a fun thing to be able to talk about.”
For Janet Phillips, the boys’ mother, Saturday will be an exercise in divided loyalty.
“I’m going to be like the president at the Army-Navy game,” Janet said Wednesday. “I’m going to sit one half in each [team’s] cheering section.”
Janet will be among the contingent sporting the Wahoosiers T-shirts for which her four boys have playfully mocked her. Andrew Phillips, the eldest child, is in graduate school at Virginia after completing his collegiate football career at Stanford last season. Willy, the youngest of the four, moved with Janet from Darnestown to Charlottesville over the summer. Andrew and Willy also will be at the game.
The contest carries great significance for the entire Phillips family. The game already had been scheduled by the time Paul signed with Indiana, and the opportunity to see Colter’s and Paul’s teams square off on the gridiron thrilled the boys’ father, Bill.
But Bill Phillips — a District lawyer, lobbyist and former Senate staffer — will be at Memorial Stadium in spirit only on Saturday. He was one of five people who died in a plane crash along a remote Alaskan mountainside in August 2010.
The defensive line meeting room at the Indiana football team’s on-campus headquarters has since been named in memory of Bill, who played defensive tackle at the University of Evansville. Janet said six of Bill’s former Evansville teammates are expected to attend Saturday’s game.
“We’re going to be thinking a lot about Dad, and I know the boys will,” Janet said. “But I also know” — she paused to chuckle — “that they are each very committed to their team, and they are not going to go lightly on their brother.”
Paul was recovering from a hamstring injury and did not travel with the Hoosiers last weekend to their 27-20 loss to Ball State, but he is expected to see his first collegiate game action Saturday on special teams. Colter suffered an ankle sprain during Virginia’s 40-3 win over William & Mary, and Cavaliers Coach Mike London said Thursday he would be a game-time decision but will almost certainly see action.
“I wouldn’t even try to keep him off the plane to go play in this game,” London said. “This game means a lot to him and his family. I would expect Colter to be there.”