Each year since 2006, this scholarship has been awarded to one senior football player in the county who has “limited scholarship funds, impeccable character, good work ethic, is an over-achiever” and is college bound.
The head football coaches from each high school in the district are to submit a two-page letter of recommendation on the player they feel is most deserving, explaining why they were selected and comparing them to Phillips.
Funded by James Kelly of Kelly Landscape Management in Dallas, the winner is selected by a committee made up of Phillips’ close friends, wife and daughter Kenelle Phillips Gresham.
Phillips was the Patriots’ head coach from 1977 to 1980 and again from 1985 to 1989, giving them their first winning season in school history in 1980 at 7-3. Phillips, struggling academically and having no plans for college, was pushed by his principal, teachers and coaches to do his absolute best so he could play college football, later leading him to be a teacher and coach, impacting the lives of many in the community, according to the Paulding County Schools’ Athletic Adventures newsletter.
Head football coach Andy Dorsey said each year he likes to make comparisons between his seniors and Phillips to determine his pick.
“As I was going through the seniors I kept coming back to Rodrick,” Dorsey said. “He puts all his heart and soul into everything. When I hear people talk about Phillips it’s the same character traits Rod has.”
Harrison, a quarterback who will attend Valdosta State in the fall, is not the first player from Hiram to win this scholarship.
Wide receiver Ethan Slate was the most recent, winning in 2011.
The award recipient said he felt honored knowing he was chosen of all the seniors in the county, but admitted that while he knew about the scholarship, he was not focused on winning it.
“I was focused on Valdosta State, trying to better myself for that,” he said.
Harrison recently earned one of five preferred walk-on spots for the team out of 60 who tried out for the positions.
Taking this honor with him to Valdosta State, Harrison said he is also taking memories from his years playing Hornets football as he said he will miss the coach and the bond all the players had on and off the field.
The scholarship amount was not disclosed.