Wade Phillips: A Coaching Career Rooted at UH
Wade Phillips (’70), longtime coach in the National Football League (NFL), proudly wears two rings on his right hand. One is his Super Bowl 50 ring, when his Denver Broncos triumphed over the North Carolina Panthers in 2016. The other? His University of Houston ring.
“This ring” — he points to his UH ring — “gave me the chance to have this” — indicating his Super Bowl ring. “So I’ll never forget my University of Houston ring, and I’m proud of it.” The University of Houston is proud of him, too: Phillips is a winner of a 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award.
Phillips may have gotten his professional start at UH, but football is in his blood. His father, Bum Phillips, coached at the high school, college and professional level, and is remembered for his contributions to the Houston Oilers’ rise to prominence — not to mention his straight-shooting cowboy persona. His father was a major source of inspiration, and witnessing his prolific coaching career set Wade on the same track. “It was great experience for me as a kid,” Phillips said. “All those high school kids were my heroes when I was a water boy.” Coaching rubbed off on Wade’s son, too: Wes Phillips is currently a coach for the Washington Redskins. “We may be the only three-generation NFL coaching family,” Phillips said.
The 1960s were an especially exciting era for football at the University, with Coach Bill Yeoman at the helm and the Astrodome as the Cougars’ home field. “I had some other opportunities in high school, but the University of Houston was really the place for me,” Phillips said. He played on the team, but moved into coaching as a graduate assistant to Coach Yeoman. “Coach Yeoman is a legend,” he said. “I still try to emulate some of the things he did as a coach.” From there, he followed a career trajectory similar to his father’s, coaching at the high school and college levels before joining his dad as a coach for the Houston Oilers in 1976.
According to Phillips, one can learn a lot from football: “life lessons” and “how to work with people.” The University of Houston is proud that Phillips learned those lessons here, and so is he: “I can’t say enough about how appreciative I am.”