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Vikings' Harrison Phillips shows his big heart

Vikings defensive tackle Harrison Phillips is a big presence on the field, but he's proving to have an even bigger heart off the field.
Credit: KARE

MINNEAPOLIS — At 6-foot-3, 307 pounds, defensive tackle Harrison Phillips is a menacing presence on the field for the Vikings.

“He has that physicality and I think he’s the strongest person on our team, just to be real,” Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks said.

“Harrison is an intelligent guy, you know what I’m saying, he’s kind of like the nucleus,” Vikings defensive end D.J. Wonnum said.

KARE 11 sports director Reggie Wilson caught up with Phillips about his time so far in Minnesota.

Reggie: How are you enjoying your experience with the Vikings so far?

Phillips: It’s been absolutely incredible. This is the most I've got to play snap count wise, percentage wise, and so you know every football player loves playing. So to be out there with my brothers who I grind with as much as I do, it's one of the most fun seasons for me for sure.

Phillips became one of the first signings by Vikings first-year general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. He's an ascending player on the field, even though he plays a position that doesn’t get much fanfare, with plays that don't always show up on the stat sheet. The dirty work he does on the field earned him the nickname "Horrible Harry," after a popular children’s book.

Phillips: I think first grade or kindergarten there was a time that I went out to recess and found the gardener snake, I brought it into school after recess, and horrible Harry actually does that one of his books.

Reggie: Who is Horrible Harry on the field?

Phillips: You know, to be honest with you, I still don't even think I'm like a horrible guy on the field. I don't like the area in our game where there's injuries or malicious intent to harm another person. I've never been ticked off enough really in a game to try to take it passed that. Now, I wanna whoop the man in front of me in every legal way that you can whoop a man.

Phillips’ high school sweetheart and fiancée Shae Spady sees a different side of the defensive tackle.

“Harrison off the field is just a big teddy bear," Spady said. "When you see him with our little dog Marty, you would not think he was some big, bad lineman.”

His big heart extends to the community.

“I find passion and happiness and then serving other people and seeing the smiles that I can bring with the position that I'm in,” Phillips said.

Phillips started Harrison’s Playmakers in 2018 — dedicated to mentoring kids with special needs in Buffalo and his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska.

“My Mom ran an at home daycare at our home and there was always a child or two who had some type of developmental different special needs — Down Syndrome, autism," Phillips said. "So, from a young age, I was great friends with children with special needs.”

The foundation continues to grow in popularity.

“Last year I did 13 different Harrison's Playmakers events in Buffalo," Phillips said. "In Omaha, I do a camp every year. That first camp had 70, the second one had 150, this last year we were at over 250.”

The events are a good time for the kids and for Phillips.

“When I put out for my camp here, even after I signed here for free agency in March, I did a big Harrison's Playmakers camp back in Buffalo at the stadium and it was a 500 person limit and it sold out," Phillips said. "There was a waitlist.”

“The amount of smiles I see at the events from the kids and the confidence boost from them — coming in timid with their parents — and then the end of the day after the event leaving all talkative and happy with their goodie bags, just so stoked to know Harrison, to have met him, to hang out with him for the day,” Spady said.

Phillips already has multiple events under his belt here in Minnesota. During this holiday season when giving back is amplified, Phillips is doing his part to make his efforts stick year round.

“Hey teachers, this is who I am" Phillips said. "Invite all your students. It's 100% free events for all these kids, awesome life changing things when we empower them and teach them about their independence and that no one has disabilities. We all have different abilities. I’m excited to be here and excited to see how fast we can grow here in the Twin Cities.”

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