In four seasons at Virginia Tech, Cam Phillips accomplished a lot.
He started and contributing from the time he was a freshman through the unfortunate end — he’d miss the bowl game with a sports hernia — of his senior year and became the all-time leading receiver. He helped guide his team to bowl victories in three of four seasons, winning Belk Bowl MVP as a junior.
However, the one thing that almost everybody who comes to Blacksburg hoping to achieve eluded Phillips for his four years and has now eluded the Virginia Tech football program as a whole for seven years now — a championship.
Phillips made 76 catches for 983 yards and 5 touchdowns during his junior season as Virginia Tech won 10 games, the ACC Coastal and a bowl game. However, that strong season was pockmarked by losses in their two biggest game.
Playing in front of 157,000 fans at Bristol Motor Speedway, the Hokies lost to the Tennessee Volunteers in the second week of the season. That was a stinging loss that could have signaled to the world that Justin Fuente was set to put the Hokies back on the map after a 29-23 record the previous three years.
Yet, that loss paled in comparison to the 42-35 defeat they suffered to Clemson in the ACC Championship Game when Clemson was a double-digit favorite. In that game, Phillips had 12 catches for 92 yards and a score, but another play or two could have turned the tide and that’s what the Virginia Tech star will remember from that game.
The Hokies followed that with another strong year in 2017, starting the year 7-1 with their only blemish coming against Clemson. However, back-to-back losses on the road to Miami and Georgia Tech torpedoed their chance to get Clemson again on a neutral field with a title on the line.
When it was announced that Phillips would miss the Camping World Bowl against Oklahoma State, it seemed like a great career was missing a fitting end. However, it was also revealed that he’d been playing the entire season on that sports hernia.
Phillips never had a 1,000-yard season and never made it to 80 catches in any one season. Yet, those milestones were arbitrary and his consistency still allowed him to become the program’s all-time leading receiver.
However, the absence of an ACC title is something is almost tangible. When you look at Phillips’ career, you can feel it missing.
Bowl victories, MVPs, records and even division titles are all notable during an incredible four seasons. Now, he’ll have the chance to make lasting memories in the NFL.
And, who knows? Perhaps not winning a conference title at Virginia Tech will help fuel a long and prosperous career.
Yet, as he leaves Blacksburg it’s so unfortunate that one of Virginia Tech’s all-time greats didn’t get the title that validated the careers of so many Hokies during the program’s heyday.