REDONDO BEACH, California — Picture Redlands, California, 4-star talent Jaelan Phillips as the guy who could deliver bruises on the football field and then, one day, patch the bruises in a medical room.
It could happen.
For Phillips, who earned an invitation to The Opening finals last week, getting the most out of his academic future is just as important as—if not greater than—his athletic achievements. Ranked as the nation's No. 8 weak-side defensive end, Phillips has aspirations to earn a quality degree from a top institute of higher learning.
That degree, Phillips said, could involve him one day being addressed as "Dr. Phillips."
"I'm interested in pre-med," he said while preparing to compete at last week's The Opening Los Angeles regional. "I love anatomy and studying the body."
Fortunately for football fans, Phillips also enjoys hunting down quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers on the field. At 6'5" and 235 pounds, Phillips is a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker at Redlands East Valley High School who is equally effective at rushing the passer as he is at dropping into pass coverage.
Fifteen schools have recognized his talent so far, and he's expected to get a few more offers during the spring and summer. Texas A&M is the latest school to offer.
"It's getting pretty hectic," Phillips said. "But I'm loving it and really enjoying it. I'm still open and taking it all in and learning about all the universities."
Phillips was in Palo Alto, California, last Saturday for Stanford's junior day. Unofficial visits and spring practice appearances to UCLA and USC also are upcoming, he said. He also said he's interested in taking a visit to Notre Dame if his schedule works out.
Stanford and UCLA are two schools to keep an eye on, according to 247Sports' "crystal ball" predictions for Phillips. He said the winning school will have to balance a solid football program with an outstanding academic reputation.
"I'm really high on academics. It's been a huge thing in my entire life, and my parents really stress that," said Phillips, who, along with pre-med, has interest in business, entrepreneurship and bioengineering. "I want to be at a place where I'm comfortable the next four years of my life and after that. It'll all kind of be a gut feeling for me when it's time to make that decision."
Stanford fans will be happy to know that Phillips thoroughly enjoyed his junior-day appearance. Seeing the campus and meeting up with the players and coaching staff scored high marks.
"The academics and athletics speak for themselves," he said. "I'd been to Palo Alto once before, but to go as a recruit and see myself there the next couple of years was awesome."
Damon Sayles @DamonSayles
Jaelan Phillips (@JJPhillips15) working with the DEs. Also can play OLB effectively. #TheOpening https://t.co/mAIAt7xNiG2/28/2016, 9:51:09 PM
The winning school will get an athlete who showed his versatility at Redlands East Valley. His 87 tackles showed he has a nose for the football. His 13 ½ sacks showed his ability to beat offensive linemen and get to the quarterback as a defensive end. His three interceptions showed that he can drop back into coverage as an outside linebacker.
What's best for schools is that he doesn't mind lining up at either position.
"I've been playing outside linebacker for longer," he said. "But as I've started growing into my body and getting taller and wider, I love rushing the passer. That's my forte and what I like doing, but I still like dropping into coverage."
Phillips is ranked in the 2017 class as a defensive end, and he earned his The Opening invitation competing with the defensive ends. Look for him to continue weighing the option of playing both defensive end and outside linebacker at the next level.
And look for him to continue monitoring schools that have the athletic and academic resumes he's looking for.
Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles.