By Published: Sept. 1, 2017

Phillip Lindsay

Three-time CU football captain Phillip Lindsay (Comm'18), a.k.a. “the Tasmanian Devil,” is best known for his visible exploits: 219 rushing yards in last year’s homecoming romp over Arizona State, a 67-yard trick play touchdown against USC and 1,579 total yards during CU’s storybook 2016 season.

But there’s more to No. 23 than the explosive moves fans see on game day. Away from Folsom Field, Lindsay, a senior from Denver, is an admittedly “old soul” for whom family comes first and dogged effort is a deep habit.

He talks fondly of wrestling younger brothers Zachary and Marcus until father Troy would send in big sisters Cheri and Sparkle to settle the score. To this day Lindsay makes time for long bike rides with his dad, card games with his mom, Diane, and family face-offs in dominoes.

“It was big for me to stay near my mom,” said Lindsay, 23, who turned down offers from other schools. “I wanted her to be able to watch my games.”

The 5'8," 190-lb senior tailback with wild flowing hair relishes being a captain.

He keeps on teammates about homework and sleep. He gets to practice early, wears ice packs to class and makes time for visiting local schools and youth groups.

“He’s always pumping us up,” offensive guard Tim Lynott (StComm'19) told the Denver Post. “He just pushes himself to his limits.” 

Teammates may call him “Old Man Phillip,” as academic coordinator Medford Moorer (EthnSt, Soc'04; MEdu'14) confides, but Lindsay, a Smokey Robinson fan, takes pride in being a throwback.

“I want to see you face-to-face,” he said. “With no phone or social media, you have to be real.”

Make no mistake, Lindsay, 23, loves playing football. But it has always been a means to an end: Getting a college education and making the most of it. “Five kids in our house,” he said. “If we wanted to go to college, we needed to find a way to pay for it.”

True to intent, Lindsay dominated at Denver South High School and earned a full scholarship to CU. He’s risen from practice squad player to elite college tailback. He typically arrives on campus at 4 a.m. and doesn’t leave until after 7 p.m. He has one hour each evening to act like a college kid.

Pure perseverance pushed him through tough times, like when he tore his ACL his senior season at South. Five months after surgery, he had no flexion in his knee. Lindsay thought he’d never play football again. He was down to extreme measures.

“My dad and uncle would hold me down,” he said. “Then they would pop my knee and loosen up all that scar tissue. That’s torture.”

He recovered, redshirted freshman year and excelled on the practice squad. New challenges emerged.

“He was really struggling academically,” says Lindsay’s learning specialist, Michele Brannigan.

She set him on a strict schedule that involved daily meetings, a checklist to complete each week and generally staying ahead, especially before away games. They’d work through every assignment together, whether for a women and gender studies course or an English class.

“Miss Michele,” as Lindsay calls her, often stayed late to work with him.

The joint effort paid off. Lindsay completed his communication major in May, and this fall, his final semester at CU, he’s earning a second major in sociology.

“He has evolved,” said Brannigan.

Lindsay, who formally graduates in December, got more than academic guidance out of their partnership. He found inspiration.

“Seeing her effort pushed me,” he said. Whether or not Lindsay plays pro football, he sees himself one day in a police uniform — a family-focused old soul trained in sociology with a badge, a fierce work ethic and an urge to help.

“I don’t want to be looked at as Phillip Lindsay the football player,” he said. “I want to be looked at as Phillip Lindsay, a man who has changed the world.”

Photo by Glenn Asakawa