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Heavy-hearted Phillips returns to Cardinal By: Elliott Almond, Bay News Group | News

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Heavy-hearted Phillips returns to Cardinal By: Elliott Almond, Bay News Group
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Elliott Almond of the Bay Area News reports: GroupStanford lineman Andrew Phillips stoically recalled Monday details about an Aug. 9 plane crash that killed his father and from which his teen-aged brother emerged a heroic survivor.

"I've learned when things get really bad there's still a lot to be thankful for," he said, speaking to Bay Area media about the ordeal for the first time.

The nightmare began for the fifth-year senior when receiving a call in the early hours of Aug. 10 after the first day of fall football camp. His father and brother were on a plane that crashed, mother Janet Phillips told him.

"Some are dead; some are alive."

William D. Phillips, a Washington lawyer and lobbyist, died when a plane carrying him and eight others on a salmon fishing trip crashed into a remote hillside near Dillingham, Alaska. He was 56.

But Willy Phillips, 13, was one of four survivors in a crash that also killed former U.S. senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the incident.

Phillips credited his youngest brother for helping him and surviving family members navigate the difficult times.

The lesson crystallized in an Alaska hospital where Phillips was the first family member to visit Willy, an eighth-grader at a Catholic school in Bethesda, Md. Phillips had images of his brother lying on a sterile bed connected to life-support tubes.

Instead, the teen greeted his brother with a smile and said of a gash on his leg, "Hey, take a picture of it. I want to see it."

Willy told his 6-5, 302-pound brother that he had fallen asleep during the trip and woke up to "a big bang."

The teen was the only one mobile enough to help the others. He tried to keep survivors warm and comfortable while waiting for hours while rescuers searched the wilderness for the wreckage.

"Everyone said he had this calm and strength about him that helped everyone," Phillips said of his brother, who started school in a wheelchair Monday.

Willy suffered a severely broken foot, broken wrist and fractured bone in his face. The teen had jumped out of the wreckage to signal for help when hearing a plane overhead. Phillips said his brother managed to climb his way up a mountain ridge to alert bush pilots looking for them.

"That changed the game completely," said Phillips, an honorable mention All-Pac-10 guard last year. "Seeing Willy run up, people knew there was something to fight for, something to get to."

Willy's actions didn't surprise the family. Phillips, whose brothers Colter and Paul are tight ends at Virginia and Indiana, respectively, recalled how a Great Dane visciously attacked Willy when he was a toddler. Paul Phillips kicked the dog away, saving his life.

"He got his Band-aids on and didn't complain," Phillips said of Willy. "He just accepted it."

Phillips also fondly remembered his 6-foot-7 father, a defensive tackle at the University of Evanston in the 1970s who later worked as Stevens' chief of staff.

The senior Phillips, who lived in Germantown, Md., managed to attend half the games of all his sons, although they were scattered across the country.

"It's insane," Phillips said. "He'd see a Friday night game and hop on a red eye at Dulles and be at a 3:30 kickoff for us."

Phillips was ready to forgo the 2010 season to help his family. But his mother insisted he return to Stanford the day after the funeral.

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