The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

September 4, 2013

Phillips was star on all-time great WVU line

By Mickey Furfari
For The Register-Herald

Morgantown — Rick Phillips of Parkersburg, W. Va., was a key cog on one of the best offensive lines West Virginia University ever had.

He was an All-America tackle on the 1988 team that was the school’s first ever to finish the regular season undefeated and finished with an 11-0 record and top 5 national ranking. Those Mountaineers went on to battle Notre Dame for the National Championship, losing 34-21.

“I enjoyed being with everybody during my four years at WVU, and especially that season,” said Phillips, who now is city manager of St. Marys, W. Va. “I have fond memories of my career as a Mountaineer.

“It not only was great that we went undefeated, but also that we guys were a close group. We stuck together both on and off the field.”

Phillips was the left tackle on that 1988 starting offensive line, John Stroia was the left guard, Kevin Koken was the center, Bob Kovach the right guard, Brian Smider was the right tackle, and Keith Winn was the tight end.

Phillips noted that they had very fine back-ups.

An All-State first team selection at Parkesburg High School, he played as a Mountaineer in 1985-86-87-88. Injuries hurt the ‘88 team in its bid for the No. 1 ranking nationally and the title.

Phillips made the Scripts-Howard All-America first team as a senior. He also earned All-America second-team honors from The Associated Press and United Press International.

He is on WVU’s all-time team for the 1980-89 period.

“We worked very hard to be as strong as we possibly could be,” Philips said. “And many of us still stay in close touch.”

All-America quarterback Major Harris was a great leader, and he gave due credit to that terrific offensive line. The Hall of Famer could run as well as pass and WVU won by big margins against most opponents, including Pitt and Penn State.

“We just had so much power,” Philips commented. “We’d just take off and keep rolling.” Besides Harris, he lauded A.B. Brown, Undra Johnson and other fine running backs.

He also praised “our great defense” as well as “our special teams.”

He called Coach Don Nehlen “a class act. He was a good person. He was a great leader, a great motivator, a great speaker, and a great organizer.”

Phillips also has fond memories of Dave McMichael, his position coach.

After graduating in 1989, the 6-foot-4, 249-pound Parkersburg native helped coach the Big Reds until 2007. His son was a sophomore that year and PHS won the state championship.

In all, he coached the offensive lines for 12 years. The Big Reds captured three state championships in five tries while he worked there.

His first job was an administrator for five years at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Parkersburg until 1995. Then he worked in health issues at The Worthington Center until 1999.

Phillips’ next position had him in charge of Parkersburg’s city parks for about 10 years. He took over as city manager of St. Marys in 2011.

Rick and his wife Anna have been married for 28 years. They have two sons, Rick II, 27, and Jason, 22. There also is a granddaughter, 5.

All of them reside in Parkersburg.