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Stanford’s Harrison Phillips wants to bring ‘intellectual brutality’ to the Bills

The accomplished intellect is one of the draft’s top interior defensive linemen.

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS — Stanford defensive lineman Harrison Phillips will make you feel bad about yourself.

Ready for this? In addition to playing football, Harrison graduated early with a double major in science of technology and sociology with a minor in education. He was a Pac-12 Academic first team pick, and on the AFCA Good Works Team for his community service work. Oh, and he’s on the board of a program for mentoring at-risk minority youth.

And according to Phillips, school even came second to football where he put in 30 or more hours of film study a week, went to practice and even bugged his coaches via text about certain plays.

“Football always comes first, so school’s going to sacrifice,” Phillips said at the NFL Scouting Combine on Saturday. “That’s just the way it was. School came easy to me. I spent us much time in football as possible. Then I had a process after practice to wind down and to turn off the switch: Watching film, taking notes, texting with the coach.”

The football work paid off just as much as the school work for Phillips. Last season he had 103 tackles, 17 tackles for a loss and 7.5 sacks. According to Pro Football Focus, Phillips had the best run stop percentage of any interior defensive lineman a season ago. Then on Saturday he topped it all off by leading all defensive linemen with 42 bench press reps at the combine.

At Stanford last season, Phillips’ production came mostly while playing as a nose guard. Phillips said he only played the zero-technique role out of necessity because of Stanford’s roster depth. In the NFL, he thinks he could play the zero-technique, or the more penetrating three-technique, lined up between the guard and center. He’ll play for the Bills, who selected him with the No. 96 pick in the draft.

“I don’t have a preference,” Phillips said of his ideal position. “I like being around the ball, closer to it. I like rushing from a (three-technique), but I think everybody does. I know that I can play both, and that versatility is a positive.”

Phillips credits some of his success at Stanford to his background as a wrestler. At Millard West High School in Omaha, Phillips was a three-time state champion and four-time national champion.

“The physical — the hips, hands, fluidity, balance, things like that — that help,” Phillips said. “But there’s also the mentality part. In wrestling, it’s you and another person. You can’t blame your shoes for slipping. You can’t blame your coaches for the plan call. You can’t have any excuses. It’s you let another man beat you. In the same way, that kind of is the trenches. And sometimes, the offensive line needs two people to try and do that where it’s a 2-on-1, but that’s fine, the more the merrier. I would just say it prepared me in the mindset and physically.”

Also helping Phillips is Stanford’s brand of “intellectual brutality.” It’s a term coined by current Cardinal head coach David Shaw, and a mentality Phillips hopes to bring to the NFL.

“That’s actually how I play,” Phillips said. “I’m very intellectual and anticipate plays. Then when it comes down to it, I want to be violent and brutal.”