Former U.S. ski team member Andy Phillips once skied off a cliff and snapped his femur in half. So kicking a football is easy.
The 24-year-old redshirt freshman had never played in a football game at any level when he nailed three field goals in the Utah's season-opening 30-26 victory over rival Utah State. He also went 3 for 3 on extra points.
"We didn't get the opening kickoff as I hoped we would to get it out of the way," he said. "I was definitely nervous. My first kick was a PAT, so I was just thinking, 'Get this thing through.'"
In total, Phillips has gone 5 for 5 and ranks 20th nationally with 1.7 field goals per game. He's got a pair of field goals over 40 yards.
Additionally, he's made all 19 of his point-after kicks to lead the Pac-12. He set a school record with 10 PATs against Weber State in Utah's second game of the season, a 70-7 rout.
He's had 17 kickoffs averaging 62.8 yards with ?ve touchbacks. He also had an onside kick that led to a touchdown against Utah State.
"Ever since he's gotten here he's gotten nothing but better, and worked himself into the starting placekicker roll this fall," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "He's been exceptional. We couldn't be more pleased with what he's done. He's been a big plus for our team."
Those first-kick jitters that Phillips had quickly faded.
"After I experienced the dynamic of being out on the field, with having another team besides my own rushing at me, and having the fans behind me, I couldn't have felt more comfortable in that stadium — which is cool because I didn't expect my nerves to die down that much," he said
It has been an unusual journey for Phillips, who was a prodigy growing up in Utah and went to the Winter Sports School in Park City. He was named to the U.S. team, but took time off for a religious mission. After he rejoined the team, funding started to dry up because of the economic downturn.
A natural athlete, one day he and his brother were at a local high school kicking field goals.
"I thought, 'Hey, maybe I could make something of this,'" Phillips said.
He resolved to play on a Pac-12 football team so he put some film together and the next thing he knew he was a walk-on for the Utes, tutored by former Utah kicker Joe Phillips.
He said he "literally kicked hundreds of balls a day," and did strength training. Then this past summer he attended a camp in Arizona run by Gary Zauner, a former NFL special teams coach.