I called Bum Phillips on September 29 to wish him a happy birthday.
“Hey, any of them you have are happy,” he responded in a lazy East Texas drawl. Phillips told me he was 87 years old. “I don’t wanna be, but I am,” he Laughed. “Born in 1923. I figured it several ways, and it always comes out 87.”
We got to talking about Bum’s new book, “Bum Phillips: Coach, Cowboy, Christian,” and how he got to writing it. He and his wife Debbie got the idea to do it when they realized the grandkids really didn’t know who their grandfather was and what he had done.
Phillips has 23 grandchildren and another on the way.
“It was really more for my grandkids because they didn’t have any idea what I did when I was young. Of course when I was born they still had horse and buggies and stuff like that.”
For anyone that doesn’t recall Phillips as a younger man, he was the cowboy hat-wearing sideline general of the Houston Oilers from 1975-1980 — becoming the winningest coach in franchise history.
The other reason Phillips wrote a book is because the proceeds will go to help his work with three charities dear to his heart: Heart Sign, which helps sponsor a camp for educators and families who depend on American Sign Language as a primary means for communicating; Coaches Outreach, a program that encourages coaches to have Christ-like character as they mentor the thousands of young men who will pass through their doors; and Mike Barber Ministries, whose mission is to turn around the lives of men and women living in prison (for more on these charities go to bumphillipscharities.com).
His involvement with Mike Barber Ministries may have given Phillips his entrance to heaven. Bum felt he was always a Christian. He said he figured that since he hadn’t killed anybody, or lied to anybody, he was going to heaven. It wasn’t until he took a trip with Mike Barber — his former tight end for the Oilers — to a prison that Phillips realized his true place with Christianity.
“If I wouldn’t have gotten with Mike, chances are I wouldn’t go to heaven. I got a chance this way. And that’s the difference (from the kind of Christian he use to be).”
Phillips is a Cowboys fan these days — and that is no surprise since his son, Wade, is the head coach. With the Oilers no longer in existence, Phillips’ second allegiance is to the new Houston franchise, the Texans.
— Tiffany Shine