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NC State’s Corey Phillips had ‘incredible’ support from football staff during family crisis

  • June 19, 2021

RALEIGH — “I can’t get CJ to wake up.”

Corey Phillips felt the room around him dissolve as he tried to digest the information his wife, Jessica, was frantically repeating over the phone.

It was a typical Tuesday morning, May 18, and she had gone to wake up her 11-year-old son, CJ, for school. He was unresponsive. 

Jessica frantically called 911. The operator instructed her to give their son chest compressions while she waited for help to arrive.

“The ambulance just showed up,” she said. “I need you to get home.”

Home, though, was eight hours away.

In April, Phillips had moved from Nashville, Tennessee, to Raleigh after accepting the director of scouting position for N.C. State’s football program – he previously worked at Vanderbilt University as the football program’s assistant recruiting coordinator.

His wife and son had yet to make the move and were living with her parents in Nashville. 

In a daze, Phillips made his way to the office of N.C. State head coach Dave Doeren.

“I tried to get my emotions together to go and talk to coach Doeren,” Phillips said. “But the moment I saw him, I just fell apart. I was overwhelmed with emotion.”

Doeren embraced Phillips like a son. He told Phillips to find the next flight out of Raleigh. He knew Phillips was in no condition to drive for eight hours.

“I don’t want you to worry about anything here,” Doeren told Phillips. “You just need to go.”

Phillips made into onto the last Southwest Airlines flight from Raleigh to Nashville that night and arrived at Vanderbilt University’s Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s hospital in the early hours of the morning. 

The first texts he received when he landed were from Doeren, N.C. State’s director of player personnel Merci Falaise and the Wolfpack’s strength coach Dantonio Burnette. 

“Those were the things that helped me get through because I knew someone was concerned and praying for my kid,” Phillips said. “From the moment I left Raleigh, they called, they texted, they prayed. It made me so thankful to be part of the Wolfpack family.”

CJ had stabilized and was breathing on his own, but he was also experiencing seizures. He was run through a myriad of tests and diagnosed with Encephalitis, a viral infection that causes inflammation of the brain.

“I walked into that hospital anticipating the worst,” Phillips said. “But I told myself as I was walking in, I wasn’t walking out without him.”

With a combination of anti-seizure medication and rest, CJ recovered quickly and was released from the hospital a day later. Phillips texted Doeren an update and asked him when he should return to work.

“Take all the time you need,” Doeren responded. “I’ll see you when you get back.”

Phillips stayed four more days in Nashville, helping his son recover and spending quality time with his family. He returned to Raleigh with a handwritten note from his son to Doeren.

“Thanks for letting my dad stay,” it read.

Jessica and CJ will join Phillips in Raleigh full-time at the end of this week.

“You know, I’m pretty sure that most head football coaches would have done the same thing, but I know for a fact what my head coach did and the way he treated me and my family,” Phillips said. “I took this job because of the man I knew coach Doeren to be and the value he puts on family. I feel fortunate to be a part of this family.” 

David Thompson is an award-winning reporter for the USA Today Network covering NC State and Duke athletics. He can be reached at dthompson1@gannett.com, at 828-231-1747, or on Twitter at @daveth89.

Article source: http://rssfeeds.usatoday.com/~/655085718/0/usatodaycomsports-topstories~NC-States-Corey-Phillips-had-incredible-support-from-football-staff-during-family-crisis/

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