History draws Phillips to Army Bowl

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VENICE, Fla. -- Some high school students might constantly look to their parents for advice on everyday tasks and issues.
However, Venice (Fla.) four-star defensive tackle Dante Phillips is not one of those teenagers.

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"He's a different kind of kid," his father, Damon, said. "We have not set an alarm for him or had to get him up since he was like 8 years old to go to school. He does all that on his own."
Phillips' independence stretches past waking himself up for school. This past summer, it extended to deciding which high school all-star game he would participate in. On Wednesday, Phillips was recognized for his decision to play in the 2012 U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 7 in San Antonio during a jersey presentation ceremony in his high school gym.
"I took this game because I did my research and looked at all the good players who played in this game, and I felt like it was a good fit for me," Phillips said.
He specifically pointed out current Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh as a former Army All-American who led to him picking this game. Phillips was invited to participate in the Army Bowl around the end of his junior year of high school and accepted the invitation at the start of his senior year.
"It's just a great opportunity to play in San Antonio, and I'm ready to play," he said.
On Wednesday, he got to share his excitement with a gym full of classmates at Venice High and a few special family members.
"It was great," Phillips said. "Especially being able to have my grandma who's not from here, she's from Jacksonville, and she came down to visit. It's a good experience to have her down here to see this and all my coaches and my teammates and my little brother. It was a real good experience for me."
Before the jersey presentation began, Phillips made sure an extra chair was pulled up to the table for Damon Jr., his 6-year-old little brother and a local Pop Warner running back.
"He's my little road dog," Phillips said. "We play everything together. … He's kind of like my inspiration because he grinds harder than I do on the field. I love him."
The brothers' father said he wanted his youngest son to be there, and Dante wouldn't have had it any other way.
"We also thought it would be good and important for little Damon to be here and see it." he said. "We thought that would probably be something that would stay with him. They're brothers, so sometimes it's 'get out of my room, shut the door.' Then other times, it's picking him up and staying with him, so it's typical. They're really close though."
A Gators commit, Phillips noted playing with some of his future teammates as a particular aspect of the Army Bowl that he is excited about.
"Just getting out there to compete with the best players in the country and seeing some of the kids I'll be playing with in the future at Florida like D.J. Humphries," he said.
Florida currently has three Army All-Americans in its 2012 class, including its most recent addition in Rivals100 tight end Kent Taylor.
With the Gators currently struggling and lacking bodies on the defensive line, Phillips is stepping into a unique opportunity that will throw him into the fire immediately in Gainesville, Fla.
"[Defensive line] coach [Bryant] Young is always telling me no other school is going to offer an opportunity like this for you to step into because honestly you can see from TV that they don't have any depth at the defensive tackle position," Phillips said. "Most schools, they have the depth, but they'll tell you that they don't have it so they can persuade you to come play for them. But Florida doesn't have that depth, so they're ready for me to get there and play whenever."