Campus News

Alumni Spotlight: Andrew Phillips '06

The Alumni Spotlight highlights Georgetown Prep alumni making impacts all over the globe. Prep's 5,700 live and work all over the world in every field imaginable. The Alumni Spotlight series captures our graduates' stories and Georgetown Prep's impact on their lives after their four years as a student. To submit a story, email alumni@gprep.org.

What have you done since graduating from Georgetown Prep?

After graduating from Prep in 2006, I headed out to Stanford where I enrolled as a freshman and went to two-a-days. (As an aside, Prep's preseason training made my first camp at Stanford feel like an absolute cakewalk). I quickly became a Classics major and was blessed to learn from an incredible faculty at Stanford who unpacked the ancient world and all its applications to our modern times. On the football front, I was lucky to be a starter at guard for three years, and things steadily got better for our team every year: 1-11 (thank God for redshirt years), 4-8, 5-7, 8-5, finally culminating in a 12-1, #4 AP ranking, with us beating the absolute heck out of Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl in Miami for the sendoff of all sendoffs to my football career. I keep waiting for the call when the ESPN 30 for 30 people come and make a movie about our class and that 2010 team, because our success felt every bit as storybook absurd as it sounds. My class included future NFL stars Toby Gerhart and Richard Sherman, I was coached by Jim Harbaugh, Greg Roman, and an incredibly impressive coaching tree across the college and NFL worlds, and we were joined by the likes of David DeCastro, Andrew Luck, Zach Ertz, and a bunch of guys who have made careers out of football. I love Stanford and am so grateful for what that place did in a very similar vein to what Prep did for me: it broadened my horizons, it pushed me, and it kept me humble.

After graduating, I made a shot at the NFL, but a player lockout was in effect in 2010-11, and it was a terrible year to be an undrafted, no Combine invite, try-hard guy. As the lockout continued to hold, my brother Colter (Prep '08) brought up a one-year program offered by the University of Virginia, where he was a 3rd-year student and tight end on the football team. It sounded perfect for me: a one-year MS degree that included an abroad component AND would give me the finance, accounting, marketing, and strategy curriculum of an MBA program. I applied to the last window of a rolling admissions calendar and thankfully got in.

The lockout didn't break, so I accepted my admission to UVA and was officially no longer a football player. In fact, I'm the only member of the 2011 Orange Bowl's starting offense who did not play in the NFL.

But UVA was phenomenal for me. I made a ton of friends, played intramurals, and studied and traveled abroad in China. When I got back from China in June, I drove my family's old van to Minnesota and got married to my wife, who I had met through Colter a few years earlier. From there we drove out to California, where we lived in the suburbs south of San Francisco in a tiny apartment for about four years. I worked for various tech companies which lived out stages of startup life, while my wife was a nurse at Stanford Hospital. We frequently took trips to Napa, the coast, and San Francisco. It's a place I'll always hold in my heart. We welcomed our first daughter in late 2015, and I took an opportunity with LinkedIn which brought me back to DC in early 2016. After four years in Alexandria and welcoming another girl in 2018, we left for Minnesota last year. We live in a south suburb called Lakeville where I work remotely for LinkedIn, and I coach 9th-grade football at the local high school. Life is good.

Being a student-athlete at Stanford, how were you able to manage your time to meet the requirements of being a student-athlete at a high academic institution?

Even as a hotshot Prep grad, my first few months at Stanford were rough. I remember calling my dad during that 1-11 season saying I couldn't do it. Football and school were too hard and to get our butts kicked every weekend on top of it? No thanks. Thankfully, his cooler head prevailed, things got better, we started winning on the field and I hit my stride academically.

A significant factor of that success was learning to compartmentalize the requirements on my time and how to ask for help: I had to get over my pride that told me I didn't need extra work or tutoring. I realized that I could get help to either get me out of the hole for a class I struggled in, or I could get in to A range for a class I was mostly getting right. Stanford is also one of those places that refuses to allow people to fail; the overwhelming majority of my professors were willing to work with my football schedule and accommodate things where road trips or other scheduling issues came up. It was such a powerful experience in belonging: I was treated very much as a serious student first, and someone who happened to be playing a sport at a high level second. It's a model for college athletics that only a handful are even attempting, sadly.

In 2007, in what some called the biggest upset in college football history, Stanford beat #2 ranked USC at the Coliseum, by a score of 24-23. Can you put into words what this experience was like? How did Prep prepare you for this moment?

People might not remember, but Pete Carroll's USC teams were the Big Dog in college football for years. They had a fearsome swagger as a program and routinely embarrassed good teams. Enter Jim Harbaugh, newly-hired Stanford Head Coach, who in 2007 makes a point, when asked about USC's dominance of the Pac-10, "We bow to no man and we bow to no program at Stanford University." He deliberately fired a shot across the bow at USC in the peak of their dominance, and it was up to us to back up his words. No small feat for a program that had just gone 1-11, including a 42-0 home loss against USC the year before.

Fast forward to that game, I'm traveling as a backup guard in a game where we're 42-point underdogs. The atmosphere was incredible, and Trojan Nation was out in full force. Through three-quarters of football we were incredibly lucky: their NFL prospect John David Booty threw 3 interceptions (already a career-high; he'd finish with 4!), we have a pick-6 (by my classmate Austin Yancy), and we held them on a dramatic 4th and Goal from the 3 to end the first half and keep it close. The last play of the 3rd quarter, the guy I was backing up got rolled upon with an ankle injury, so I played the entire 4th quarter. I'll never forget trotting out to the huddle to hear Rey Maualuga and Sedrick Ellis, USC's All-American middle linebacker and defensive tackle, talking trash to me. I didn't know what else to do, so I smiled and talked right back to them. Of course, I was scared out of my mind, and my weak trash talk probably showed my cards.

We then proceed to convert a 4th and 20 to get in the red zone caught by Richard Sherman and a 4th and 10 to win the game (caught by Mark Bradford, a captain and receiver of ours from LA who had lost his father just a few days prior), and another INT by our defense to close it out. Even writing that now, having lived it and experienced it, I can't believe that's what actually happened. A 4th and 20 and a 4th and 10 on the same drive? That it was Mark, the LA guy who had been shunned by USC in recruiting and had lost his father just a few days prior, who caught the game-winning TD? I'm not someone who believes that God interferes in sports with regularity, but I don't know how else to explain it. We were destined to win that game.

We got back to the locker room, and my cell phone had 60+ texts and 20+ voicemails. One voicemail was from our long-time DC at Prep (now my 2010 Prep grad brother Paul's boss), Pat Nalls. I called him back with my pads still on and he lost his mind. It's a moment we'll always cherish and something I'll never forget.

What was one of your fondest memories as a student at Prep?

Some of my favorite memories came in the surprising ways that Prep expanded my horizons. My favorite class at Prep was AP Art History with Ms. Perry; not something I ever would've seen myself taking, much less enjoying, loving. But the thing I'm most proud of is my participation in drama for two winter shows. I was a Musketeer in Cyrano de Bergerac (which involved learning theatrical sword fighting/choreography from a woman who had performed on Broadway and wearing things I had never worn before or since then) and the overbearing Edgar Sowter in The Happiest Days of Your Life. Happiest Days in particular was a blast. Similar to being on a good sports team, where there's unspoken energy and drive to hone the craft and improve every day, that cast brought it every day. I made some of my closest friendships from high school with guys and girls from that show. There was some major star power on that cast as well: my classmate Carter Lynch would end up touring with Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Ian Harding (Prep '05) is starring in Pretty Little Liars and just made an appearance in Ford vs Ferrari. Mary Bonney (Stone Ridge '05) is now a rising producer, actress, and writer in LA. At my wedding I deliberately put Mary and a bunch of the Stone Ridge drama girls with guys from my offensive line at Stanford; that was a hilarious collision of worlds to watch unfold.

What advice would you have for current Prep students?

Anyone can turn on YouTube and find a steady supply of catch-all advice that's worth hearing. Old axioms like "don't follow the money" or "be true to who you are" are old axioms because they're usually right for most people. But there's a difference between Hallmark knowledge and true wisdom. Wisdom is a contact sport; it has to be learned. Mistakes have to be made. Knees have to be bloodied and you have to fail a lot in order to find the truth about yourself under the baggage and pretense you're likely putting on yourself.

So my best bit of overwhelming advice is, especially while you're young and in an environment like Prep which will catch you when you fall, do some things that are completely out of your comfort zone. More specifically, go seek out things that you think you'll be terrible at, and pursue them specifically because they're hard and new.

I didn't do nearly enough of this growing up, but to use my own experience, AP Art History was something I initially considered for the schedule block it occupied, but I dismissed it at first because I didn't know if I'd enjoy it. Had I done that, I would've missed out on an experience that I still cherish. Had I not done drama, had I stayed in my lane as a jock and someone vying for a football scholarship, I would've lost out on an experience that changed the way I think about the performing arts and granted me a whole lot of empathy I didn't know I was missing. In fact, it was Coach Paro who, when I told him in homeroom that I was thinking of going out for drama, urged me into it. He told me stories of Prep football players who had done plays and loved it. So this place will support you in expanding your experiences and getting outside your comfort zone.

And honestly? Not everything will stick, and a lot of it will be uncomfortable. Good! The point is to use the time you have and the environment you're into your advantage. Do as many things as you can just to do them. Say yes more than you say no. If you're a jock, do something flexing creativity (I recommend drama, and hey, it's the only shoo-in way to spend time with girls on campus). If you're a proud nerd, go out for a sport. If you're a one-sport guy, go try something that helps you in an area you know you need to improve. If you think you're a math genius, take German. "Specialization is for insects," after all.