JEFFERSON CITY - October 8 was a big night for Capital City and their team captain, offensive lineman Wil Phillips. But being crowned homecoming king was far from the biggest thing on his mind.
“When I’m out here, I know what I’m playing for and I know who I’m playing for, so that’ll just make me go even harder and play better,” Phillips said.
Wil lost his mother, Shawanda Latrice Brown, to a months-long battle with pancreatic cancer in March. Since then, the football field has served as Wil’s place to honor her.
“The one thing my Mom taught me was to never give up,” Phillips said. “Always keep pushing and never give up on the field.”
Phillips’ extraordinary work ethic and natural charisma earned him team captain honors for this season. One of the players looking up to him is junior wide receiver Caleb Busch, who has been Wil’s best friend since Wil moved to Jefferson City.
“We’re always lifting each other up,” Busch said.
But at six-foot-five and weighing 320-pounds, Phillips seems to be doing more of the lifting. His two favorite on-field celebrations are to lift Caleb in the air and show off their unique handshake.
As Busch and Phillips became closer friends, Phillips became a frequent visitor to the Busch home. He was often found watching whatever football game was on TV with Caleb and his father, Richard.
With his father living in Mississippi and no other family in Jefferson City to take him in, when Phillips’ mother passed he reached out to Richard Busch.
“I know they are dependable people,” Phillips said. “They’re here for me.”
Richard Busch and his wife Kris had a short discussion, and they quickly agreed to welcome the “gentle giant” into their home.
“We do it because we want to,” Kris Busch said.
Despite adding a member to their household, Richard Busch says there’s only been one big change since Phillips moved in.
“Our grocery bill’s changed a bit,” Busch conceded.
On Senior Night, Wil walked down the field with the Busch’s, while carrying a banner in honor of his mother.
“I felt better if I held it and walked with it,” Phillips said. “I felt like I walked with her for my senior night.”
Becoming Capital City’s first homecoming king made a great night even better, and a win made it perfect.
Cool story as we hit halftime at Adkins Stadium. Cap City Senior Left Tackle Wil Phillips, who’s mother passed away earlier this year after a battle with cancer, has been anchoring a offensive line that has Cap City up 28. #FNF #FridayNightFever @KOMUsports @CoMoSports pic.twitter.com/r2BcoFm73E— Ben Schmidt (@ben_schmidt_) October 9, 2021
Capital City routed Smith-Cotton by 39 points, giving the Cavs their first tally in the win column this season. It was just the second win in the young program’s history.
For Phillips, one taste of victory meant the world.
“We worked so hard, just to get a win,” Phillips said. “When we came out on top, I was probably the happiest one on the field.”
Phillips and the Cavs have a tough road ahead in the Class 5 district playoffs. On Friday, Capital City will look to upset Washington on the road.
A Cavalier win would set up a date with red-hot Helias Catholic in a Jefferson City showdown. Phillips knows his team will be counting on him to be a leader on and off the field in both games.
But no matter how the season ends, Wil expects his football career to continue after he hangs up his Cap City jersey.
Over the summer, Wil attended recruiting camps around the Midwest and visited several Division I programs, including Missouri. But so far, no one has come back with an offer.
“I know I can do it,” Phillips said. “I’m just waiting on them to give me a chance to do it.”
After living with “Big Wil” for over six months, Richard Busch agrees.
“He’s got the mindset to do it, it’s just a matter of getting to that next level,” Busch said.
Phillip’s dedication is evident in the way he’s handled his mother’s death.
“Usually when kids’ parents pass, they just fall off,” Phillips said. “I’m not doing that.”
No matter what color his college jersey is, Phillips knows who he will truly be playing for.
“It’s tough with that loss, but we’ll get through it,” Phillips said. “I know she’ll be proud.”