Andy Phillips, a former member of the U.S. Ski Team, decided to try out with the Utes as a kicker because playing football was a New Year’s resolution.
The Utes hope by having him aboard, they’ve accomplished something on their resolution for 2013 — finding themselves a kicker.
Utah’s kicking game has been more of a liability recently, with kicker Coleman Petersen going 18-for-25 in 2011 then struggling last year, converting only 8 of 13, half of which were from a distance of 29 yards or shorter.
His possible replacement, Nick Marsh, transferred to Rutgers in February, leaving the Utes with a pressing need.
Enter Phillips, who graduated from the Winter Sports School in Park City and attended Westminster College as a part-time student before landing at Utah.
He redshirted in 2012 and emerged as the leader for the kicking duties following spring ball.
A former soccer player, Phillips said he figured the easiest way to fulfill his dream of playing football was with his foot.
“I had to take a shot at it,” he said.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham likes the guy’s kicking abilities well enough, but more than anything he is impressed with Phillips’ mental outlook.
After seasons of searching for someone who could make kicks under pressure on a consistent basis, Whittingham has someone who reminds him of Louie Sakoda, the kicker who set the standard by which all future Ute kickers will be judged.
Sakoda became the only unanimous consensus All-American in Utah history his senior year in 2008 and was known for being “one of the guys,” and not of the flightier, sometimes flakier mold of most kickers.
No one doubts Phillips’ bravery, considering he spent five years with the U.S. Ski Team flying down steep slopes.
“They are courageous,” Whittingham said of skiers.
“He has a great work ethic and is one of the weight room warrior guys,” Whittingham said. “Generally your best kickers are the ones who get after it in the weight room and do all the peripheral things, and he is one of those guys.”
The Utes are still being conservative in their judgement of Phillips, who walked onto the team and could remain as a walk-on given Utah’s recent history with scholarship kickers.
Marsh was wooed to Utah with an offer and never lived up to expectations while Petersen earned one following his junior year and struggled last year.
“Kicking is funny, you never know how they are going to do from year to year,” Whittingham said.
Phillips knows there is a lot of pressure on him but he believes he can handle it. All those years of ripping down slopes taught him to turn off his mind and just let athleticism take over.
“That is why you do sports, for that adrenaline rush,” he said.
The “X” factor for him is the crowds.
“I’ve never been in front of 50,000 like in a game,” he said. “You can’t simulate that kind of loud atmosphere but hopefully I will do OK.”
Utah fans hope he will, too.
5-foot-11, 210-pound sophomore
Of note • Competed on U.S. Ski team for five years as an alpine racer … served an LDS mission in Norway ... attended Westminster College as a part-time student … Redshirted in 2012 after walking onto the team.