(PHOTO/ Troy Athletics)
Troy alum J.D. Phillips is recognized by former head coach Neal Brown at a student appreciation scrimmage last season.
At a men’s basketball game in December 2017, Troy University gave free tickets to the football team’s bowl game in New Orleans to the first 300 students who showed up.
J.D. Phillips was the first one in line.
The game started at 7 p.m., but Phillips said he was outside the arena waiting about 11 a.m.
“I wanted to be the first person in line that day,” Phillips said. “And I also thought it’d make for a fun and probably quiet day to study for a huge exam I had coming up.
“So, I grabbed Chick-fil-A for lunch from TC and took my lawn chair and books out to the arena front doors.”
Phillips describes himself as the biggest Troy fan. He said he likely has enough Troy apparel to wear something different every day for two months.
When he graduated from Troy University in 2018, J.D. Phillips followed in the footsteps of his parents when he became an alum of the same school his parents graduated from in 1994.
“They raised me to be a Troy fan, so they created the monster Troy fan I am,” Phillips said. “They raised me to have pride in what is a part of me, and their school is Troy.
“Being born and raised a Troy Trojan and now being an alum is a dream come true for me, and it’s only fitting that I’d graduate from there.”
Phillips says he’s been to nearly every Troy home game since he was born. Last fall, the only game he missed was following a car accident he was involved in.
“It hurt me a lot not to go,” he said. “I begged my parents to let me go, but I was bed-ridden.”
On football game days at Troy, Phillips gets ready for the game by tailgating with his friends and participating in Trojan Walk.
“I always enjoy Trojan Walk,” Phillips said. “Especially the Sound of the South playing outside the stadium. It gets me even more hyped than I already am.”
After Trojan Walk, Phillips gets to the stadium when the gates open to catch a front-row seat in the student section.
In the state of Alabama, Auburn University and the University of Alabama have a fierce rivalry that can divide families, marriages and more.
But Phillips has stayed true to supporting Troy and its athletic teams over the other two schools.
“It takes a special fan to be a full-blooded Troy Trojan, especially in this state,” Phillips said. “But I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
Phillips looks at Troy compared to schools like Auburn and Alabama with a David versus Goliath mentality.
“The expectations for those big schools are so high,” he said. “Troy taking down big schools makes the moment so much more special.
“Where else can you experience such a high level of success in FBS Division 1 athletics at such an intimate and personal level?”
During Phillips’ time at the university, Troy athletics had landmark moments in multiple sports.
In 2016-2017 year of sports, Troy football won 10 games, and the men’s and women’s basketball teams both won the Sun Belt Conference tournament and made the NCAA basketball tournament.
Among Phillips’ favorite memories of Troy football that season was the road game against South Alabama.
“The unity that night was unreal,” Phillips said. “No one sat the entire game, and after a five-year drought, we became bowl-eligible.”
But his favorite game as a Troy fan was seeing in person Troy beat LSU in 2017.
“It was so sweet taking down LSU because we should’ve beaten them in 2004 and 2008 but blew the games,” Phillips said. “The LSU game and atmosphere was so special. It’s hard to put into words.
“You had to be there in person to feel it and experience it.”
Heading into the 2019 football season, Phillips describes his outlook as cautiously optimistic.
“Neal Brown is a really tough act to follow,” Phillips said. “And he surrounded himself with great coaches. But only time will tell.
“The good thing is Neal did leave the cupboard full of talent.”
This season will be Phillips’ first as an alum of the school, and he plans to attend every home game as he and his parents are season-ticket holders.
“I’m not sure exactly where I’ll sit then,” he said. “But no matter the seat, I’ll be enjoying and yelling all the way until the end.”