Rudy Phillips displays the prep All-American citation with MacArthur High School Coach Bob Matheson.
Fifty years ago Rudy Phillips was the prep athlete of the year in Decatur, scoring 152 points in an All-American season for the 1962 MacArthur High School football team.
A 5-foot-10, 165-pound junior, he rushed for 797 yards, an 8.2 average. He scored 21 touchdowns. He kicked 23 extra points. He kicked one field goal. He completed 16 passes for 202 yards and three touchdowns. On defense, he played corner linebacker.
Rudy was named on the prep All-American team selected by Coach and Athlete magazine and was picked on five newspaper all-state teams.
An example of his skill came in a 46-0 romp over St. Teresa. Rudy scored on runs of seven yards and one yard and on a 65-yard punt return. He kicked two extra points, averaged 8.7 yards in 11 carries and had a 65-yard punt return nullified by penalty.
Against Springfield he scored three touchdowns, including a 95-yard pass interception, and kicked three extra points. Then, had a 28-yard touchdown run called back because of a penalty. MacArthur won 27-6 in a string of eight straight victories following a season-opening 13-12 loss to Stephen Decatur.
The son of R.D. Sr. and Pauline Phillips also played basketball that year, averaging 10 points and leading the 19-victory team in rebounding. And he had an exceptional season in track and field, setting school records of 15.15 seconds in the high hurdles, 19.6 seconds in the low hurdles and 22 feet 11½ in the broad jump. He tied for sixth in the state meet broad jump. He also ran on the school record-setting 880 relay team.
Was Rudy the best all-time Decatur prep athlete? Undoubtedly. He scored 247 points in football in three seasons, including 34 touchdowns.
His brothers also were noted athletes and the Phillips family has a distinguished record of athletic excellence through the years.
Rudy is 67 and lives in Colorado. He played football at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, served two years in the Army in the Vietnam War and then played at Illinois State University, Normal. He was education coordinator at the Pontiac Correctional Center and was Archer Daniels Midland Co. minority relations representative.
Invited to return to Decatur for a 50-year celebration, Rudy said: “Decatur doesn’t need another story or recognition ceremony for Rudy Phillips. Instead the celebration should be about other athletes in the Phillips clan. They were all very talented in their own right, but had to live with the constant inquiries about me at the most inappropriate time. Enough has been said and written about me. What about by brothers, nephews and cousins?”
Rudy’s brothers are Larry, Johnny, Richard, Robert and Kent. His sisters are Carolyn, Sandra and Deborah.
“Rudy had great character,” said Kent Phillips. ”He never bragged about his athletic talent, he always allowed his performance to do the talking for him. We who came after him followed his lead.”
Here are the Phillips family accomplishments:
LARRY PHILLIPS: Played on Stephen Decatur High School state tournament basketball teams in 1964 and 1966. He lives in Decatur.
JOHNNY PHILLIPS: Played football (fullback/kicker) at Stephen Decatur. He lives in Lawton, Okla.
RICHARD PHILLIPS: Was a prolific scorer on the Stephen Decatur basketball teams and is regarded as one of the best pure shooters in Decatur history. He lives in Decatur.
ROBERT PHILLIPS: Played basketball at Stephen Decatur and set a city record in the high jump, 6 feet 2 inches. His best was 6 feet 4¾ at Mattoon. He lives in Louisville, Ky.
KENT PHILLIPS: Played football, basketball and competed in track at Stephen Decatur; set a school record of 23 feet 3 inches in the broad jump. He lives in Decatur.
More Phillips family accomplishments:
ERIC PHILLIPS: Rudy’s son was a national punt, pass and kick champion.
FARAGI PHILLIPS: The son of Robert Phillips played prep basketball in Mississippi, played college basketball at Mississippi Valley State and is a successful basketball coach at Marshall High School in Memphis, Tenn. His 2011-12 team was runner-up in the state tournament and he was named coach of the year. Faragi’s son, Kylan, now plays for him.
FELIPE PHILLIPS: The son of Richard Phillips was Macon County basketball player of the year at MacArthur, 1990-91. He now is the MacArthur basketball coach.
MARCUS PHILLIPS: The son of Richard Phillips was state champion in the low hurdles when MacArthur won the state track and field championship in 1992. He attended Clemson and South Carolina University,
MICHAEL PHILLIPS: The son of Kent Phillips was an all-city selection in basketball at MacArthur and the 1997 state and national Junior Olympics champion in the long jump, 24 feet 2 inches. He played at Wichita State University.
TERRANCE BELL: The son of Deborah was an outstanding high hurdler with a time of 13.7 seconds. He also played football.
JOE MICKLE: The son of Sandra Mickle set the Macon County season rushing record in football, 1,457 yards, at MacArthur and set a county single game record of 375 yards rushing against Mount Zion in 1994. He also was an all-state football player and was on the state champion 800 relay.
SCOTT PHILLIPS: Larry’s son, is a successful businessman in the Netherlands
Perhaps the Phillips saga began when James Phillips, Rudy’s uncle, played football in 1951 for Decatur High School, The Phillips are related to the Johnson family, Smith family, Jelks family and the Flukers. Each family has had standout athletes. A distant relative, Jacoby Sangster, is playing at Robert Morris College.
Friends, family share memories
How good was Rudy Phillips? The answers are from his contemporaries:
“Being the person and athlete he was, he made life and sports much easier and more fun for the rest of the brothers. He set the bar so high, we couldn’t reach it, but it was fun trying. I’d go to basketball games, track meets and the first thing people wanted to know was what I was to Rudy. So we had to perform.”
— Robert Phillips.
“If he got to the corner, it was like chasing a car. You might as well turn around and wait for the kickoff.”
— John Earl Wilder
“Growing up we played flag football at Garfield Park. Rudy taught me everything about sports.... He was a great instructor, very patient and just a natural. No matter what kind of ball — football, basketball, baseball, softball, golf ball, bowling ball, ping pong ball — he could master it.”
— John Phillips
“Sweetie Pie was one of the best.”
— James Johnson
“I remember Rudy pitching against me in Little League at Garfield Park. He had a curve ball that was unhittable.”
— Melvin West