Utah football corner Clark Phillips III opts to look at the bright side of COVID-19 pandemic

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Cornerback Clark Phillips III, works out during spring practice, Tuesday March 3, 2020

Like the rest of his University of Utah teammates, Clark Phillips III went home for spring break in early March, only to stay there as the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Like the rest of his teammates, Phillips III continues to adjust to a new normal, conducting Zoom meetings with his coaches and position groups, working out on his own, trying to stay fit and ready for whenever there is clarity on when the 2020 season will begin.

Nothing is ideal right now, especially given Phillips III lives in Southern California, which has been hit hard by COVID-19. Add to that the fact his mother is a nurse in the middle of the pandemic, working in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Phillips III, though, has been steadfast in keeping a positive outlook.

“Everything has been very different of course, but it’s been a blessing in disguise,” Phillips III told The Salt Lake Tribune. “I’ve gotten some valuable time with my family. My sister is only 9, my brother is a 2021 recruit, so I’ve really just been spending a lot of time with my family, doing everything I can to have things feel normal.

“It’s truly been a blessing in disguise to be here during this time. In any other situation, I wouldn’t be home right now. We can look at the bad things, the bad factors, but I’m choosing to look at the positives. My brother [Orange Lutheran junior cornerback Bryce Phillips] and I play the same position, so being with him, having him in my corner, there is so much value in that.”

Phillps III, a four-star recruit and the highest-rated prospect in program history, appeared on Utah’s spring two-deep, feeding the notion that he is in line to start the 2020 opener, whenever that is, either on the outside or in the slot.

How that situation plays out is on hold, but an average day for Phillips III right now is full.

His alarm goes off at 6 a.m. By 7 a.m., Phillips III has had some breakfast, some coffee and spent some time with his mother before she goes off to work. Starting at 8 a.m., there are 2-3 hours of film study, while making some time in between for a conversation with Utes cornerback coach Sharieff Shah, who was Phillips III’s primary recruiter.

A one-hour defensive backs meeting at noon gives way to leaving the house, going to a local park with his brother and getting in another workout. At that point, it is the mid afternoon, so the rest of the day is more film and family time.

“There’s obviously the thought of uncertainty, I think we’d all like to be back on campus and playing football,” Phillips III said. “I just miss being in there with the guys.

“I just have to stay on my stuff, keep getting my work in every day, but yeah, the hardest part right now is the uncertainty and not having any answers. Having the game stripped away is hard.”

One major benefit for Phillips III that he has over most of his classmates is the fact he enrolled early. He has a semester on a college campus under his belt, he went through the offseason program, he participated in the three spring practices Utah got in before the pandemic hit.

“I had 2-3 months with my teammates during that first semester, so I think getting through that first transition already is big,” Phillips III said. “There’s going to be another transition I’m sure when we all get back, but that’s OK.”