Denver Broncos Phillip Lindsay Leaves Nothing on the Field
Interview by Les Shapiro
The Denver Broncos have always been a hometown favorite, and win or lose, our fans are faithful to the end. Sure, we’ve had our share of high-profile players, and names such as John Elway, Peyton Manning, Terrell Davis, Floyd Little, Shannon Sharpe and Rod Smith are just a sampling of players who have won the hearts of Coloradans. Now, there’s a new kid in town, and he’s living proof that small and mighty can be a winning combination.
Meet Phillip Lindsay, an undrafted walk-on rookie whose grit and talent are a testament to an unwavering determination to win. After honing his skills playing ball for South High School and the University of Colorado in Boulder, the Denver native joined the team last season, as an undrafted rookie who came to training camp as a college free agent. The skilled running back became the first undrafted offensive rookie in NFL history (and the third Broncos rookie behind David Treadwell and Von Miller) to be selected to the Pro Bowl. Not bad for a kid from Denver whose dreams of an NFL career have led straight to the top.
Les Shapiro, another favorite hometown sports guy who has a long history reporting on the team, sat down with Lindsay to learn a bit more about what makes him tick.
Shapiro: You were born and raised in Colorado, you went to high school in Colorado, you went to college at the University of Colorado, you ended up playing ball in Colorado for the Denver Broncos. You are the perfect person to interview for this magazine because outside of a few out-of-town trips to play football, I don’t know if you’ve ever left the state.
Lindsay: I’ve left the state for different reasons, but I haven’t left the state unless it was something to do with sports. I’ve been in Colorado my whole life. I was born and raised here and I’m proud of it.
Shapiro: You are the only undrafted rookie on offense in the history of the NFL to ever make it to the Pro Bowl. What was that experience like for you wearing that title? How did the other Pro Bowl players receive you, knowing what you accomplished?
Lindsay: It was just cool to be able to meet everybody. I guess they respected me and understand that you respect game, game respects game, and everybody is on the same playing field and understands each other so it was cool.
Shapiro: Who did you hang with that week?
Lindsay: Von [Miller] pretty much took me under his wing. That was Von’s seventh time so he showed me the ropes. I pretty much hung out with everybody. You get to know these men a bit deeper and you get to know their families and understand their stories. I got a lot of great wisdom from these older players.
Shapiro: What did you learn from guys who had been in the Pro Bowl year after year that you can carry over?
Lindsay: A lot of times they’ll tell about what they did wrong and what you should or shouldn’t do. There are different things that you don’t know and don’t understand until you get there and start talking about them.
Shapiro: You didn’t play in the Pro Bowl because of a wrist injury. You came back and started doing your rehab. There was talk at the beginning that the injury was bad … really bad … and there were some people who were wondering if it might impact the rest of your football career. How worried were you at the time and did you believe those reports initially or was that just something the media had blown out of proportion?
Lindsay: Any injury is bad, it’s just how you look at things. Everybody wants to blow something out of proportion. It was a big-time injury, but it was an injury that you don’t see a lot. That’s why people said it was a very bad injury. Back in the day if you blew your knee out, that was really bad, and a lot of the time you were done playing football. Now they give you these bionic knees and it’s bad, but they know how to fix it. With this wrist injury they don’t see it often, but it took some time and I had a great surgeon who worked on it, and I’m back to being myself. I guess I don’t pay attention to the negativity.
Shapiro: There is a lot of negativity out there, especially with social media.
Lindsay: That’s our problem with society. Everything’s about negativity and we take social media too seriously.
Shapiro: How do you deal with it?
Lindsay: I just don’t pay attention to it. I could care less.
Shapiro: Are you on Instagram and Twitter, Facebook?
Lindsay: Social media makes a lot of money. Today social media is a lot of people’s job, so I have to be on social media. Do I care about it? Not really. Do I care what people have to say? No. A lot of the time you just have people who hide behind the TV screen or computer screen just saying these mean things that they really don’t know about …
Shapiro: Keyboard courage …
Lindsay: Sure, everybody has courage when they’re doing social media. But it really affected my family more than it affected me, mainly because I know what’s going on. And these people don’t know what’s going on, they’re just saying things. Every day I go there, I do my work, I know the truth. I talk to the doctors all the time. They’re seeing my struggles and my progress. The head coaches are saying that’s all that matters at the end of the day.
Shapiro: You were an undrafted free agent. There are a couple of guys who have played for this team, one of them still plays for this team, who were undrafted free agents coming out of college. Rod Smith ended up going to three Pro Bowls, Chris Harris Jr., your current teammate, has gone to four Pro Bowls. Whenever I talk with those guys they always mention that even after all those Pro Bowl trips, they still have that chip on their shoulder, they still remember that no pro ball team drafted them. You’re still young in your career. Do you think you’ll ever get rid of that chip?
Lindsay: No because that’s what I’ve had my entire life. I had to go through a lot of stuff in college and for me it’s a fight. It’s a chip that keeps me going; even when I don’t want to do something I do it. I’ll work out extra time, I’ll be here until 10:30 or 11 o’clock at night – that stuff is the reason why I am who I am today.
Shapiro: What were some of the things that were being said about you that created that chip?
Lindsay: I was too small, I wasn’t athletic enough, I wasn’t good enough. And when you go to a school that at the time is not winning you don’t get looked at as much – they go for athletes who go to schools that are winning. So, you have all these so-called professional scouts but they’re not looking at what you can do, they’re just looking at size. I don’t blame kids for not wanting to play football nowadays. Soccer, lacrosse, you have the opportunity to do something, but here with football they measure you, you’ve gotta be this, this, that. And you can’t do what you want to do. Football has changed a lot for the better and for the worse. For a man to tell another man, a human being, they can’t be something, that’s not their decision, that’s God’s decision.
Shapiro: Another great Bronco, a running back. He wore No. 30 before you, Terrell Davis. You have a relationship with him. You wanted to wear No. 30 because of Terrell Davis. When you initially talked with him about that I understand you asked for permission. How did that conversation go?
Lindsay: It came down to there were a couple jerseys left and I’m thinking No. 30 is off limits. In preseason I understand there are a lot of players, so you have all these numbers, but I’m thinking I wear No. 30 and I know a lot of people aren’t going to be too happy about it. [Terrell] has a legacy and it was not just another number. I wanted to make sure it was okay for me to wear it and that he understood that I understood the importance of the jersey number and what he had done. I’m a Colorado native and I know about Terrell Davis; I’ve read his book and think that people tend to forget about players before us who left a legacy of blood, sweat, and tears on this gridiron, on this field. For me it was a sigh of relief asking him, and I have a better conscience knowing that it’s cool, Terrell Davis himself said that I could wear this. Fans are going to always say something, or be mad, because that’s what fans do.
Shapiro: Do you maintain a relationship with TD?
Lindsay: I do. I talk to him all the time.
Shapiro: Are you a baseball fan?
Lindsay: Honestly, I’m not.
Shapiro: You know Charlie Blackmon? Charlie’s got the beard. His beard is like the face of the Rockies franchise. Now do you know where I’m going with this? You’ve got the hair. Charlie won’t shave the beard. It doesn’t matter how hot it is, it doesn’t matter if it’s a slump or he’s hitting it, it’s his thing. Is your hair your thing?
Lindsay: Yeah, it’s always been my thing. It’s something that all my brothers had and we grew up with. It was either we cut it real short or we grow it all the way out, and that’s something that just stuck with me and it’s like my power. It’s been working for me my whole career, high school, college and now in the NFL, I’m not going to change now. Why change something that’s working? When I’m done playing I’ll probably just cut it off, maybe go bald. I’m okay with that. But for now, it’s my trademark and it’s me.
Shapiro: How do you keep it under your helmet?
Lindsay: It just does its thing. It just sits down. It’s a good patch of hair.
Shapiro: Last year you were a great story for a number of reasons. One of the endearing parts of your story was that people got off on the fact you still lived with your parents. You’re a professional athlete, you’re making a good amount of money, you’re a star in this league right off the bat, yet you still lived with your parents in the basement. Do you have your own place now?
Lindsay: Right now I’m still living with my parents. It’s about later on in the future, it’s understanding that you don’t play this game forever and you’ve got to be smart with your money. Do the right thing with it. Why rush when I have time to really set myself up to have success after playing football. The money I’m making right now, at least seven years in the NFL, you’re not going to make that the rest of your life, that stuff stops, so you’ve got to be smart with it. And one thing I would say about Coach Fangio is he’s really into us saving our money. We always have money classes with him. Every meeting we have a session where we just talk about money, talk about different people around the league who are doing good with their money and reports about people who are doing bad, but it’s good to see that because you don’t want to be that person who is only thinking about blowing all kinds of money that you didn’t have to blow.
Shapiro: That’s smart. What happens when you want to bring a date home?
Lindsay: I’ve got a girl, so I don’t have to worry about it. Yeah, I mean I’m a grown man, 25 years old.
Shapiro: We’ve got a new coaching staff here. You had such a successful rookie season, were you worried at all that you had to reprove yourself to the new coaching staff? Worried that they wouldn’t know how to use you?
Lindsay: You have to prove yourself in this league every year. What I did last year was good, but I want to continue to build off that. So I’m never worried about it, because I am who I am, and I’m going to go out there and do what I do best, which is be myself and play football. I love playing, I put a lot into it, and I know that’s going to pay off. I can’t control where I play, it’s not my job. My job is to make plays. I get 10 carries, one of those has to be a touchdown, one can be a break. I don’t need a lot of carries to do some good things. I’ve never been like that. You give me 10 carries, I’m going to break one of those, easy.
Shapiro: You broke your very first carry last year. It was a caught pass, but you still carried it to the endzone.
Lindsay: Yeah, it’s not just about running, it’s about can you make plays. One of the biggest highlights of that game wasn’t scoring my first touchdown, it was actually getting my first solo tackle on one of the hardest punt returners to get down. You know normally I’m offense, I really don’t tackle like that. But I got my first tackle and that was probably one of the best-feeling moments. I’ve scored a touchdown but to be able to get a solo tackle in front of the whole thing is just one of those things you don’t get to do often.
Shapiro: Last year at the beginning of the season you were giving a lot of interviews. At the end of the season you cut back a little bit, because it can be tiring. But this year you’re opening up a lot more. Do you see yourself now as one of the guys who needs to lead this team?
Lindsay: I don’t go at it thinking I’m going to be a leader. It’s what I do. I want us to win and they know that too. I have to have great chemistry and bonds with my teammates on the offensive line. But we’re all grown men, we understand that we get penalties, we’re losing yards, and that leads to losing games. Nobody wants to have another 6-10 year. Everybody’s already doubting us. But we have a very talented group, and we [need to] stay disciplined and do things right. We’ve got a great quarterback, we’ve got some older receivers. It’s in the making of having a great year, but we can’t shoot ourselves in the foot. Give us a fighting chance by doing things the right way.
Shapiro: Death by inches as the coach likes to say.
Lindsay: Yeah, death by inches. Sometimes you’ve got to wake people up. I want people to get on me. I’m not always right. We’re all human. I’m gonna mess up in a game, but hold each other accountable. We’re grown men, we do what we need to do to feel good, but if we’re together we’re a team, we watch each other’s back. These are men that you look at in the eye, you meet their family, you meet their kids. We’re all fighting for our jobs. And any day whether it’s now or later we’re not gonna be playing that long, or you could get hurt, so we all have to be on the same page. I take it seriously. You’ve got Joe Flacco in the back. We know we need him. If I don’t do my job, he gets hurt by that. That’s my fault. That hurts his family, it hurts him. That hurts me, it hurts my family. So we all are connected as one – that’s what it comes down to.
Shapiro: It’s a game where people have to work in concert. That’s why the discipline, the repetition is so sorely needed. Okay, a few random questions. Did I read right that you could dunk a basketball when you were 14 years old?
Shapiro: How tall were you at 14?
Lindsay: 5’8” or 5’9”, I haven’t grown since.
Shapiro: Can you still dunk a basketball? A 10-footer, not an 8-footer?
Lindsay: Yeah I can. I always had an athletic ability to jump. I was actually really good at basketball. I’m not saying I could tomahawk it or anything, but I could dunk it.
Shapiro: Cool. What do you enjoy most about being a pro football player?
Lindsay: The journey itself. Where I came from and where I’m at right now. You don’t know the unknown, you don’t know what’s going to happen next. That’s the exciting part about it.
Shapiro: Bring that full circle. You almost did leave the state. You almost went to Texas correct?
Lindsay: Yeah. It was Texas A&M. At that time the coach got fired the same day he came to my house for a visit. He sat in our house and said he was going to give me a contract. He got in the car and turned on the radio and learned he was fired.
Shapiro: Wow. Sounds like [CU Boulder coach] MacIntyre.
Lindsay: Yeah, coach MacIntyre. the day he came over, that’s when I had my knee injury. He looked at me, I’m probably 140 pounds, and you could tell in his head he’s like ‘what the hell is this’, but he honored my scholarship and at the end of the day me and coach Mac got close, but it took some time, and I had to fight through some trials and tribulations, but that’s what happens when you’re undersized.
Shapiro: What’s the most Colorado thing that you do? Do you ski, do you eat at Casa Bonita, do you hike fourteeners, what do you do?
Lindsay: I’m pretty low key. The most Colorado thing I do is I like to hike. I do the Manitou Incline every year, I do it once or twice a year depending on timing. I take my mom to the zoo – she loves the zoo, nothing big. I wish I could ski but it’s against league policy.
Shapiro: There’s a clause in your contract that won’t allow it, correct?
Lindsay: Yes, that and motorcycles.
Shapiro: If you could visit any part of Colorado for a week, where would you go?
Lindsay: I haven’t been to the hot springs yet.
Shapiro: Like Glenwood Springs?
Lindsay: Yes. Where the water is naturally hot. I’ve heard about it and I really want to do it. I just haven’t had the chance but I’m going to do that. And I’d go to Aspen. I’m not a big snow person honestly. I don’t know how to ski, I’ve never been snowmobiling, but I want to try it at least one time.
Shapiro: I think after somebody reads this you’re going to get invited.
Lindsay: I hope so!