In this ninth edition for the 2012 season we sat down with Pernell Phillips and discussed the cold weather of Cincinnati, sledding and why, despite growing up in Ohio he is not a fan of Ohio State.
Editor: You grew up in Cincinnati, so for those who don’t know, what was it like growing up in the Midwest?
Pernell Phillips: It was pretty normal. Everyone kind of thinks of the Midwest as a bunch of small towns, but Cincinnati wasn’t really like that. The only thing that really stuck out over there were the winters. That’s what we would call truly being cold. I remember going outside and it seemed like there would always be ice or snow on the ground, and we had a lot of dreary days. But more or less, everything is the same as here.
ED: What were some of your favorite activities to do there as a kid in Cincinnati?
PP: Well, whenever it snowed, we would always play football in the snow. That was the number one thing. It was a lot of fun. We would also go sledding on the hill by my house, and this one time I got on the sled, and went down so fast that I crashed right into a pile of firewood at the bottom of the hill. I just remember lying flat on my back and not being able to move for a few minutes. Then I got up and did it all over again, so there were a lot of good memories. Everything we did pretty much involved sports.
ED: So you mentioned earlier about a back injury as a kid, although minor, but you also suffered a groin injury during your time in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals. How tough was that to recover from?
PP: The groin injury was very hard. It’s the type of injury that can only heal from rest, and I think for me, it was tougher mentally. Obviously I was with the Bengals and trying to show them what I can do, so I just had to stay positive and stay focused on getting better and coming back strong. Physically too, it hurt. It was tough to get down in a three-point stance. It was hard, but I worked at it and got the proper treatments.
ED: Based on what you saw there at the NFL level, how would you compare that to what you’re more familiar with in the Arena League?
PP: The talent is top notch in the NFL and the field is a lot more open, so it requires you to run more and be better conditioned. Now in the Arena League, there is a lot of passing and in the outdoor game, there’s the rushing aspect that comes into play. I think the outdoor game takes a bigger toll on your body, but no matter what league it is, the more physical team will always win.
ED: After playing both the outdoor and the indoor game, do you have a preference of which you like better?
PP: Yeah, I would say the outdoor game. There’s something about being outside and playing on the grass that I like. It’s a bit more free and you have greater responsibilities. That and the quality of players and the speed of the game is what always attracted me to play.
ED: Now that you’re in Tampa Bay, what has the biggest adjustment been?
PP: The main thing has been being away from my family. I’ve done this before and I’ve played in a lot of different places, so I’ve learned everything else usually takes care of itself, but you can’t duplicate your family. I’m kind of use to being away from home now, I guess. If one thing shocked me overall, it was the weather. I couldn’t believe how much you sweat down here, and when I got to Tampa, I was unpacking my suitcase and you look down at some of the things you brought and just say, ‘man, why did I bring that?’
ED: Being an alumnus of Central State University, where current Storm assistant coach Lawrence Samuels used to coach, how much does having a commonality help ease the transition?
PP: It helps a lot. Knowing someone from back in Ohio allows me to kind of talk about things I’m more familiar with instead of just talking with some of the guys from Florida. It’s always nice to talk with Coach Samuels and share some stories about Central State or Ohio, or maybe some of the same people we both know. We’ll always chat, but I think having that advantage with someone with ties from back home makes adjusting to your new surroundings a little easier. It’s nice to know there’s someone on the field with you who shares something in common.
ED: So being from Ohio, are you a big fan of Ohio State?
PP: No, I actually hate Ohio State. When I first got into playing football, I would watch the players who were coming out of the University of Miami (Florida) and they were always some of the best players to go to the NFL. It was almost like a machine. They were consistent in producing great players, and that’s what everyone wants to be as a young kid playing football, so I really liked them. There were always top players coming out of that school, and they weren’t just good in college, they would go on to be good at the next level too. I always admired that. Actually, part of the reason I hate Ohio State is because they beat Miami in the 2002 National Championship game.
ED: Sticking with the college theme, you majored in Manufacturing and Engineering. If you were not a professional football player, what do you think you’d be doing as an occupation?
PP: To be honest I wouldn’t even go into my field. I’ve always liked real estate, so I would try to do something in that industry. I’ve actually thought about getting into it once my football career is over, but for now I’m focusing on football. I would want to do residential more than commercial.
ED: Growing up, who were some of the professional football players you admired?
PP: When I was younger, I was like most kids and I would really like the skilled position players, so my favorite player to watch growing up was Barry Sanders. Later on as I started to develop into my own position, I started watching guys like Warren Sapp. I would say those two.