Note: The following appears in the Syracuse football gameday program.
In the ever-changing world of college football, where players can transfer whenever and wherever they please, Jalyn Phillips has stayed true to his values and trusted the culture in place at Clemson.
Growing up in Lawrenceville, Ga., Phillips held a number of offers from other high-profile schools. Playing alongside former Tiger cornerback and 2022 NFL draft pick Andrew Booth Jr. made quite the vaunted secondary at Archer High School.
Phillips committed to play for Head Coach Dabo Swinney and Clemson in 2018 prior to his senior season. His primary recruiter was none other than a Georgia high school football legend, Mickey Conn, who spent 16 seasons at Phillips’ rival high school (Grayson), where he won seven region titles and a state championship in 2011.
“It was good to see someone recruiting me who was familiar with what I’m used to and where I am from. We connected from the start. It was good to have someone close to home who can relate and know everything about what I am going through and how I grew up. It was the right choice.”
Phillips was drawn to the Upstate of South Carolina by the culture in Tigertown.
“We are a family here. Coach Swinney wants all of his players to graduate, and he cares about his players, genuinely. Coming here and knowing that he cares about me more off the field than on the field was a big deal to me.”
Phillips brings versatility to the talented secondary room. Phillips, who can play the pass well and is physical enough to play the run in the box, has found his home at free safety on Defensive Coordinator Wes Goodwin’s loaded defense.
“Free safety is my home,” explained Phillips. “Knowing the defense well has really helped me as a young guy. I had to know all the positions, and that really helped me know the defense inside and out.”
Phillips is paired with the 2021 ACC Defensive Rookie-of-the-Year, Andrew Mukuba. It is hard to find a better duo at safety in the ACC.
“I am definitely confident in playing next to Andrew. He is my guy.”
When Phillips arrived as a freshman, he was behind future NFL standouts K’Von Wallace, Tanner Muse and Nolan Turner. In most cases, a talented player like Phillips would place his name in the transfer portal in hopes to find immediate snaps elsewhere. Phillips stayed true to the process and is now reaping the rewards of staying at Clemson.
“I trust in God. The story is already written and I am big in trusting the process. I came here for a reason, and I do not think there is any other college that is like Clemson.
“I came here knowing I had to get better and I had to develop and get in the playbook. I had trust in Coach Swinney, Coach Conn and Coach (Mike) Reed. I had trust in the defensive scheme and my ability. I just had to put the work in and knew the rest would take care of itself. I know God has a special plan for me.”
Phillips also noted that he gained a wealth of knowledge from those veterans during his freshman season.
“They said to be patient and bloom where my feet are. I learned life skills, not just football. I am grateful for those veterans who took me under their wing.”
Clemson is a special place because of the people, and for Phillips, the football program is no different.
“I came here with my best friend, Andrew Booth Jr. We went to the same high school, and he is like my brother. I love all the guys, including Sheridan (Jones), Ruke (Orhorhoro) and Joseph (Ngata), who is my roommate. I would not really call those guys my friends…those are my brothers. We have a special bond.”
Phillips has made huge strides in his four years at Clemson and looks to be a huge part of this Tiger defense for the rest of the season.