Loyd Phillips tried to turn down the Outland Trophy in 1966 when Arkansas sports information director Bob Cheyne informed him of his selection. He'll gladly accept when he'll be given a real trophy Thursday night at a banquet in Omaha, Neb.
The Springdale resident and former school administrator at Rogers is enjoying three days of activities -- along side 2012 winner Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M -- as part of the Outland Trophy's plan to replace plaques with trophies for former winners from years ago.
Cheyne tells the story of informing Phillips in the locker room that he had won after the Hogs lost to Texas Tech in the 1966 season finale that kept them out of their third straight Cotton Bowl. Phillips was so upset at losing, he said, “I don't deserve it. Tell them to give it to someone else.”
Then, on Monday morning, Phillips went to Cheyne's office to make sure he understood correctly. Please, he said, send it back if it has already arrived.
Cheyne spent 30 minutes explaining that the award wasn't based on one game and it was also like many other individual awards, the team earned it. He needed to accept the Outland for the school and his teammates.
“I did try to turn it down,” Philips said from Omaha. “I had really played such a terrible game. I felt like I'd let my teammates down. I just wanted them to give it to someone else.”
Players didn't attend the banquet in those days. Phillips was given a plaque at halftime of a basketball game in Barnhill Arena.
“I came down out of the stands, said thanks and went back into the stands after they gave it to me,” he said. “It was a plaque. If I've got it, it's somewhere in the attic now.”
It was in 1988 that a trophy replaced the plaque. Former winners -- one-by-one -- were invited to return for a real trophy starting eight years ago.
“I'm here with Luke Joeckel and we are both doing everything the same as winners,” Phillips said. “We've had luncheons, dinners and we'll have the ceremony Thursday night. They have put a lot of effort into this.
“I'm having fun. It's probably right that I'm probably a lot more excited about it this than I was in 1966. I've seen the trophy. It's nice. I'll be glad to have it in my home, but I'd really like it if I could share it with my teammates.”
Former teammate Ken Hatfield will join Broyles and UA athletic director Jeff Long at the dinner Thursday night. Phillips has enjoyed working with Hatfield in the Horses for Healing program at Vaughn, near Rogers. They are first to the barn each morning to clean in preparations for special needs children who ride the horses in the therapeutic program.
“Kenny is unbelievable with what he does,” Phillips said. “I keep telling him he wasted all of those years coaching. He should have been a special ed teacher.
“I've been retired the last three years and this is what motivates me each day. I love this.”
Hatfield was an All-America defensive back and punt returner for the '64 championship squad at Arkansas. He returned to coach his alma mater and now is retired in the Northwest Arkansas area. He enjoys time with Phillips helping the special needs kids.
"Loyd and I work as a team in the Horsing for Healing program," Hatfield said. "He's on one side of the horse and I'm on the other. We are there to make sure the kids are safe and to help with the horses.
"We have a great time. Loyd's experience as a principal and dean of students helps with the kids. He makes them do exactly what they should -- and sometimes he tells them to hold their head up and stick their chests out. He's amazing with kids."
Hatfield knew him as an intense defensive tackle that Broyles used as a slanting inside linemen with a special gear.
"He was a great player," Hatfield said. "No one ever blocked him. He played with a scowl on his face and practiced that way, too. He came to games mad. We all took a crack at getting him to go to class. He did change his ways and get with it. I'd tell him you can't just go back to Longview and hang out.
"When he decided (academics) were important, he was as good at that as he was on the field. He was great in his role as an administrator. You should see him with the youngsters in our program. He's really good."
It probably is amazing to watch the two All-Americans as volunteers in the special needs program. They say they are first to the barn to sweep before the kids arrive.
"We do a little cleaning when they get the horses out and then we have to do a little cleaning as the day goes along," he said. "We are having a great time with this. It gives you a lot of pride to see what can happen with the youngsters that come into the program and how they progress."
Phillips admits he loves the trip to Omaha. Part of the excitement is being around Joeckel.
“He's got his head on straight,” Phillips said. “It's a thrill to be around a young man like Luke. He has been very complimentary of Tyler Wilson. They have signed with the same agent and will work out at the same sports complex in Florida as they get ready for the draft.
“I know quarterbacks are important, but left tackles are about as important in the NFL. He's going to make a lot of money.”
Phillips had a brief NFL career, but he quickly realized that his body was not going to hold up. He went back to school and put in a lot more effort into academics than during his playing day. He was known more for his vicious play -- and brawling style in practice -- than his study habits.
A native of Longview, Texas, he played in a rage most of the time, but always was at his best against Texas. At 6-3, 230, Phillips was big enough for his era, although he looks tall and light these days. He was a starter as a true sophomore on the 1964 national title team and an anchor on the best UA teams in history.
However, he points to the team's success for his All-America and Outland honors. He said it is just customary for good teams to get some spots in the postseason awards.
“Basically, the Outland is a team trophy,” he said. “I felt that way then and I do now. It's like the Heisman and a lot of the others. Johnny Manziel will tell you his team got him the Heisman.
“Basically, I played on some great teams during the best times for Coach (Frank) Broyles. We were 29-3 my three years. With team success comes individual accolades. It was a great run for me.”
Phillips feels the same way for his 37 years in education, mainly as a vice principal at Rogers High. He is a true gentleman, but he was tough and consistent with discipline.
Reminded that he might have caused some trouble as a student, Phillips said, “I may not have always done the right thing, but I knew right in my heart.”
And, he tried to point students away from his mistakes.
“Hopefully,” Phillips said, “I made up for (mistakes) by trying to help some youngsters learn what was right from wrong.”
That's what the folks in Omaha are doing Thursday night, making something right with a new, shiny Outland Trophy that Loyd Phillips will deservedly bring back to Springdale.