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July 7, 2004

A rare interview with the nation's No. 2 player

Carol City, Fla., safety Kenneth Phillips likes to lay low and is media-shy. He also happens to be the nation's No. 2-ranked player and has every college in America begging for his services. On Tuesday night, Rivals.com caught up with Phillips.

So what does he think about being ranked as the No. 2 player in the country?

"I think it is a great honor," he said. "I have not seen it myself but I had some of my friends were coming up to me and telling me that Rivals.com ranked me as the No. 2 player in the nation. It is really flattering and I appreciate it a lot, but I have to keep my focus. I'm not the kind of guy that lets stuff go to my head, but that is a very humbling honor. I may have to aggravate Willie (Williams) a little bit about being ranked higher than he was though."

Phillips has had a busy summer and is working hard to help lead Carol City to another state title.

"We just started back this week with our workouts," Phillips said. "We have been working out really hard and doing a lot of running to get in shape for the season. We took a little bit of a break last week for the holiday, but now its back to business. It has been really hot this year, it seems like more than usual."

It is no secret that the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Phillips is close friends with former teammate and Miami signee Willie Williams. It seems everyone has thoughts on Williams' legal difficulties. Phillips is no different.

"I talk to Willie a couple of times a week and he is really excited about the upcoming season," Phillips said. "He is at the school almost every day working out and I always talk to him. He has been really upbeat about everything that has happened and I have really been pulling for him to get through all of this. He is just ready to get out there and play and all of us can't wait to see him get out there. I think he is going to go out there and make an impact really quick for them."

Phillips is a mature prospect who will not lead on 20 different schools while making his decision. He has named his top five and appears to be sticking with it.

"I have the same top five that I had the last time we talked," Phillips said. "Right now it is (in no certain order) Miami, Florida State, Florida, LSU and NC State. I haven't narrowed it down any farther at this point. I do have a favorite, but I'm not telling anyone who it is right now. They aren't in the lead really big or anything like that, but I guess if I had to decide today I know where I would go."

What stands out about each school?

LSU--"Well they were national champions last year and that is always appealing," Phillips said. "I know a couple of guys that go down there and me and Ali Highsmith are really good friends. He has just been telling me a lot about it and all of that and I know he wouldn't just be telling me that or lie to me. He has just been saying that he thought I would really like it and that I would fit in well there. That is one of the official visits that I plan on taking."

Florida State--"I'll be honest, growing up I didn't like Florida State, I didn't like them at all," Phillips said. "That is what happens when you grow up in a house full of Gator fans though. Florida State is not all that far from home, it is close enough where my family can come and see me play at least. My parents and I have talked about it and they are cool with wherever I go. I was kidding around because they are big Florida fans and I said, 'What if I decide to go to FSU?', and they said that they would cool with that. I also have a lot of family in Tallahassee so I think I would be pretty comfortable there."

Miami--"I really like the defense they play a lot," Phillips said. "I know that if I went there I would fit in well with the scheme of the defense and at the school period. I have known coach Larry Coker awhile and he is a really nice guy. I went to junior day there and they showed me around and all that of that stuff and I really liked the campus. I like the weight room and the facilities, too. I pretty much like everything about Miami."

Florida--"The main thing I like about Florida is that they are not afraid to play freshmen," Phillips said. "I mean, at every big school there is going to be competition, but Florida likes to play freshmen. I look at guys like Channing Crowder as an example of guy who went in and earned a starting position early on. I have talked to coach (Ron) Zook and he seems like a nice guy and a good coach. Last year we played in the state championship game there and I loved it up there. The town was real quiet and stuff and I really liked that. I'm not one of these college kids that likes to go out and party all the time and that stuff. I really don't like to go out all that much and a nice, quiet atmosphere is very appealing to me.'

N.C. State--"I don't know as much about them as the other schools on my list, but I am definitely interested in them," Phillips said. "I watch them on TV and I know they are a good team. One of my friends, Maurice Charles, plays there and I am just going off of what he tells me about it. He is always telling me that it is a good place to be and that he really likes it there. He has me interested enough in it that I am probably going to take one of my official visits there."

When you are as good as Phillips everyone wants to slap the label of the next great player at your position. It seems that everyone has an opinion of who Phillips reminds them of, but who does he think he is most like on the field?

"I think that I play the most like Sean Taylor," Phillips said. "I think that we are very similar in the way that we play. A lot of coaches tell me that I remind them of him. I feel like that if I work hard I could be as good as him some day, but of course my goal is to be better than him, but that will take a lot of work."

Carol City has another highly touted prospect in defensive end
Ricky Jean-Francois, and many fans want to know if they plan to attend the same school or have discussed the recruiting process.

"We talk about possibly going to the same place sometimes," Phillips said. "We will kid each other and say, "You know you are going to so and so,' and the other one will fire back and say, 'Oh well, you are going to that other school,' but we are mostly just kidding around. We want to go to the same place and in the end I think there is a good chance that will happen, but we will still decide for ourselves and do what is best for us individually."


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