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COLUMN: Whop Philyor is the key to the success of IU's wide receivers in 2018



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Sophomore wide receiver Whop Philyor catches a touchdown pass for IU in the fourth quarter against Michigan on Oct. 14. Katie Franke Buy Photos

Sometimes, you just need to shut up and listen. 

It's advice we've all been given at some point, whether it be from an exasperated parent or a close friend.

In the case of IU sophomore wide receiver Whop Philyor, the directive to listen has come from just about everyone.

"They always wanted me to just listen," Philyor said. "Because I ask a lot of questions because I want to know every single thing. So they said 'listen, and you'll understand it more.'"

The need for Philyor to be a better listener is not only tied to his development as a player, but also to the success IU's wide receivers will have this season.

Philyor burst onto the scene in 2017 as IU's new, Burger King Whopper-loving receiving option. As a freshman, he was IU's third-leading receiver in terms of catches and set IU's true freshman records with 33 receptions and three touchdowns.

After being injured to begin fall camp last year, Philyor worked his way into IU's rotation of wideouts, scoring a key fourth-quarter touchdown against Michigan and posting a 13-catch performance at Maryland.

During the season, Philyor's emotional intensity on the field took center stage.

He said he screamed a lot last year, at everybody and especially during his first collegiate game against Ohio State. 

In the months since his freshman season ended, he said he's mellowed and taken on a veteran's role among the wide receivers, despite just having recently turned 20 years old.

"I want to be a better leader," Philyor said. "I didn’t feel like I should have been the leader last year because I was young and I was trying to figure everything out, but this year I feel like I should be a bigger leader."


Sophomore wide receiver Whop Philyor celebrates his touchdown with sophomore quarterback Peyton Ramsey and former IU wide receiver Simmie Cobbs Jr. on Oct. 14. Katie Franke Buy Photos


There are those, like seniors J-Shun Harris II and Luke Timian and junior Nick Westbrook, who have experience and knowledge as a collegiate wideout. Others, like freshmen Jacolby Hewitt and Miles Marshall, are still adjusting to college football.

Philyor is the link between everybody in the wide receiver room.

"Whop’s a goofy cat," Westbrook said. "I love him and it’s great to have him in the receiver room for sure. He just brings the energy, whenever times get kind of mundane, he always brings energy."

Westbrook and Philyor lived together this summer, which meant while Westbrook tried to relax by watching Criminal Minds or Sugar Rush on Netflix, Philyor would be screaming upstairs after getting killed while playing Fortnite.

But just as often, Philyor would be screaming during workouts, reminding Westbrook of Westbrook's place on the Fred Biletnikoff Award Watch List, as a candidate for the award given to the nation's best wide receiver.

"Nick is going to be the Biletnikoff Award winner," Philyor said. "Yeah, I’m calling it. That’s my boy. He’s gonna win that thing and we gonna push him."

Philyor's actions and words are those of a leader, of someone more concerned with the team's performance than his own.

They're a result of listening.


Sophomore wide receiver Whop Philyor carries the ball after a catch against Wisconsin on Nov. 14 at Memorial Stadium.  Bobby Goddin Buy Photos


A prime example of Philyor's new attitude came with the arrival of IU's director of athletic performance David Ballou and athletic performance coach Dr. Matt Rhea. The new workout program installed this offseason by the coaches has led to Philyor and other players getting faster and stronger, although Philyor's increased speed came as a surprise to the sophomore, who can now run 23 mph compared to last year's 20 mph, thanks to work done with Rhea.

"I was very skeptical about it," Philyor said. "I was like 'what an old man know about speed?' That’s actually my guy and I love him to death now. That's what they told me, I just need to listen more, so I listened to them."

As a result of being more attentive, Philyor is ready to grow individually and in a team role in 2018.

"He came in and had success as a young guy and so now, he’s got to take that next step of improving his game," IU Wide Receivers Coach Grant Heard said. "He’s an athletic kid, so you know, in the weight room he got bigger, he got faster, all that stuff that you want him to do, but for him he needed the maturity part of it."

That maturity role was thrust upon Philyor given the relative youth of IU's wide receivers. It's a responsibility he's embraced with open arms.

"He wants to be great," Heard said. "He gets frustrated when it ain’t right, and so he had to understand that Rome wasn’t built in a day, you aren’t going to come out here and know it all right now."  

But Philyor is still the endearing goofball those in the IU football program have come to know him as.

When he first came to Indiana from his hometown of Tampa, Florida, he took a liking to the winter snow, making snow angels and building snowmen. He's a fan of Chinese food, and specifically the food at Z&C, a teriyaki and sushi restaurant on Kirkwood Avenue. 

His favorite beverage, right now, is Kroger brand chocolate milk. 

He put sugar on his lasagna while eating in the newly-opened Tobias Nutrition Center in the Memorial Stadium Excellence Academy. 

Philyor is an evolving blend of know-how and silliness, and if that blend is right, IU will strike gold with its receiving corps this season.

"He’s fun because he’s always happy, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him down," Heard said. "If I’m having a bad day, he probably cheers me up more than anything. But he’s just got a personality that you just, you love the kid."

But is Philyor finally listening? 

"He’s getting better at it," Heard said. 

cpdrummo@iu.edu

@cdrummond97

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