Frank Beamer became a legend in southwest Virginia, as he was born in the small town of Fancy Gap, played college football at Virginia Tech and then was the successful gridiron coach of the Hokies from 1987 until he stepped down after the 2015 season.
Cam Phillips, who spent part of his teen years in Laurel, was recruited by the staff of Beamer and is now a record-setting senior wide receiver at Virginia Tech.
But Phillips also realizes the arrival of new coach Justin Fuente, who took over before the 2016 season, may have aided his production and National Football League chances in the long run – which is what Phillips has been doing a lot of these days.
It was former teammate Isaiah Ford, who was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the seventh round earlier this year, who was the featured wide receiver under Beamer.
“It felt like a fresh start. I felt I was good or better than Isaiah,” Phillips said. “I can come in and showcase my skills. I had seen what they [Fuente and his coaching staff] had done at Memphis.”
Even though Ford is gone, Phillips feels the two wideouts were good for each other.
“When Isaiah was here it was more competition between him and me,” Phillips said.
“I want to look like the better wideout and make more plays than him, which in turn helped me and him. It helped to have someone else who was good and actually try to compete [against]. I really understand I am going to get more opportunities than I did last year. I don’t need to force the issue.”
That has certainly been the case this year. Phillips set a school record with 14 receptions in a 64-17 win on Sept. 16 at East Carolina.
The senior led the nation in receiving yards and yards per game after three games this year.
He was on pace for 108 catches this season at one point and is on track to set the Virginia Tech career record for catches, which is held by Ford with 210.
Phillips had 42 catches for 608 yards and five touchdowns in the first six games.
“It is a blessing,” Phillips said. “A lot of hard work and long nights and stuff like that. It shows a model of consistency. I really wasn’t the feature guy [in the past] but here I am about to set those records. I am blessed to be here.”
Phillips had to leave the game in the first quarter on Oct. 7 with a leg injury during a 23-10 win at Boston College. The Hokies entered the game ranked No. 16 in the nation.
“The limited information I got, I have, everything checked out as a sprain,” Fuente told reporters. “And the bye week is coming at a good time. We'll get him healthy and get him ready to go.”
Phillips began playing youth football as a young boy in North Carolina.
When he was about 12 he moved with his family to Upper Marlboro and later on he lived in Laurel.
During part of the that time he attended DeMatha Catholic High in Hyattsville.
He was a standout wide receiver for the Stags and had many college offers, including ones from Virginia, Rutgers and Wisconsin.
“He’s got tremendous ability, size, speed, quickness, terrific hands,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables told reporters earlier this season. “They do a great job of putting him in competitive, winning situations, and then he wins his share of 50-50 balls as well. He’s a terrific talent and he’s been a huge part of their success this year.”
Phillips was listed by one website, [www.nfldraftscout.com, ] as the No. 42 wide receiver in all of college football and his name could be called next spring during the NFL draft.