DENVER (CBS4) – A few months ago Phillip Lindsay committed to play football at the University of Colorado, but then he suffered a devastating injury.
The Buffs honored their commitment, and then the Buffs fired head coach Jon Embree. Phillip honored his commitment, but that’s just part of the story.
“It’s the best feeling in the world. I’m excited to go there, they’re excited for me to go there, and we’re about to play some ball,” Phillip said at the time of his signing.
With a stroke of a pen, Phillip’s college football career was right on schedule, but not exactly as planned. The future Buff was first on the recruiting radar as a star running back at Denver South High School. He committed to Embree and CU after his junior year.
Phillip’s uncle, Tony Lindsay Sr., was his head coach at South High School.
“I knew when he was a freshman coming in that he could play. And the first game out there he had like 100 yards that game,” Tony Lindsay Sr. said. “Everyone else who was watching saw it too.”
“I’m a kid trying to get somewhere and my abilities right now have got me to where I am right now, and I’m going to get better,” Phillip said.
He would get better. Over his first three seasons Phillip piled up so many yards he was on pace to crush the Denver Public Schools record that had stood for 33 years. The man who set the record — his father, Troy Lindsay.
“I did well,” Troy Lindsay said.
Troy Lindsay did more than well. In the late 1970s he was the star running back in Denver. In three years at Thomas Jefferson High School, Troy Lindsay ran for 4,400 yards, but now his son was gaining on him.
“As soon as he found out I had the record he said, ‘Dad, I’m going to break your record.’ And I’m like, ‘Son, I hope you do,’ ” Troy Lindsay said.
“That’s one thing I put on my wall every night. I’m going to break my pop’s record and I’m going to make him proud,” Phillip said.
“When he came out as a freshman and he did what he did, I told Troy it’s a done deal,” Tony Lindsay Sr. said.
The record would fall. It was in the season opener in Phillip’s senior year. It was a day that should have been a celebration, but it turned out to be a disaster.
“I went for a cut and I cut off my left foot. And right when I cut I heard some pops; ‘pop, pop, pop.’ And I kept going and then I fell down,” Phillip said.
He tore his left ACL and his high school career was over.
“It’s like all the dreams that you have for your senior year, you just don’t know what to do,” Phillip said.
“That was it, you know. I would never see him play high school football again,” his father said. “I just felt bad for him, especially in his senior year.”
The Lindsays world was turned upside-down and the future was suddenly uncertain.
“You start thinking, like, ‘What are you going to do now? You’re hurt, you can’t do (anything), you can’t play. You don’t know if the team that you want is going to come get you anymore because of that,’ ” Phillip said. “So, you’re just there, you feel alone.”
He was devastated, and lifting him back up would become a family mission.
“It’s just been constantly just trying to keep his spirits up,” Troy Lindsay said.
Dad would keep the focus on the big picture, but mom, Diane, would prove to be Phillip’s day-to-day rock. Her own struggles with health issues would be his inspiration.
“She gets up every day, and she has a muscle disease and she can’t feel her feet,” Phillip said.
“I am in constant pain every day. I have my good days and I have my bad days,” Diane Lindsay said. “I know the boys, they see it. They’ve all had to pick up and help out a lot more since I was sick.”
“She’s a tough woman,” Phillip said.
“I make it work, you know, and I go to work every day for them because they have to survive, and that’s part of my job is to make sure that they do,” Diane Lindsay said.
“I’ll never forget what she said. She said, ‘Phil, if I could I would take the pain for you.’ But my mom has to go through pain every day, and I said, ‘No Mom, if I could, I would take the pain away from you’ … and she kind of got me going.”
Fueled by his mother’s courage, Phillip didn’t stay down for long. Physical therapy sessions are now a daily part of his schedule and the knee is making a comeback. So is his football career. New CU coach Mike MacIntyre stuck by him and the scholarship Embree offered Phillip will still be honored.
“A young man who I think is a phenomenal athlete, Phillip Lindsay,” MacIntyre said.
“I was like, ‘Coach, you do know I have a knee injury.’ He was like, ‘Yeah, you’re going to get that knee well, though. You’re going to have time, we’re going to get you set. Just know that we want you.’ I said, ‘Coach, you don’t have to say any more, I’m coming.’ “
So on National Signing Day, Phillip was back on schedule, and the Lindsays world is right again, even if it wasn’t exactly as planned.
“He did very well. I couldn’t be prouder of a kid in my life than I am of him,” Troy Lindsay said.
“I’m proud of him. He’s going to be able to get an education and hopefully decide to do what he wants to do,” Diane Lindsay said.
“Oh, I’m proud. I’m proud of myself, and I’m doing this for my mom, so I’m just happy, I’m excited,” Phillip said.