Remembering Forrest Phillips: 'Forrest stories' keep coming...

By ANDREW ABADIE,

Last week, the Pine Belt lost a key figure in the sports community. 

 

Longtime official Forrest Phillips was killed in a car crash on Feb. 5 while coming back from officiating a basketball game in Louisiana.

 

Phillips' death was more than just the loss of a local sports figure. It was the loss of a man who was admired and loved. 

 

His funeral was standing room only, and numerous coaches attended. According to former longtime Petal coach and now Sacred Heart coach Larry Watkins, who had known Phillips for roughly 30 years, Phillips always handled himself correctly. 

 

"He handled (officiating) probably better than anybody," Watkins said. "He really did. He always kept his head and would say, 'OK, that's enough, let's go play.' I really respected him as an official and a person. 

 

"If there was a mix-up on a call, he wanted to get it right. That's the way to do it." 

 

Longtime friend and fellow official Greg Engle explained how Phillips handled himself on the field, which is why so many coaches respected him. 

 

"When he walked onto the field, it was all business," Engle said. "If he blew a call and a coach would come out, he would say 'Coach, I missed it, but we are going to move on, that's my call. Let's go.' He'd say, 'You're right, we missed it, but we have to move on.' 

 

Engle explained how that is an important part of being an official.

 

"The main thing I learned from Charlie (Forrest's father) and Forrest is to own up to it if we make a mistake," Engle said. "It's not the friendship part of it. It's respect for it. He never walked anywhere on the field. He hustled wherever he went to get into his position. That's what the coaches expect out of us: the officials to be in a position to make the call whether we get them right or wrong. That's what I mean by the respect the coaches have for him." 

 

For many, Phillips was a man who not only respected people but also genuinely cared about people, which is why he was so respected on and off the field. 

 

A big part of Phillips was his phone calls. Phillips called coaches after games, win or lose, always checked on his friends and sincerely asked about each person's family.

 

"He seemed to always call at the right time," Sumrall baseball coach Larry Knight said. "It could have been that we lost a tough game in high school, and he would call the next morning or the next day and ask about the game. He would ask if I was doing OK and then, of course, always asked about the family. (He was) just a caring person that definitely put others before himself." 

 

Knight, who had known Phillips since he was a teenager, remembered a recent phone call that illustrated Phillips' character. It was right before Knight’s son's wedding this past December. 

 

"He called me right before my son's wedding and said, 'Look, I'm just calling you to prepare you for when you give that talk at the rehearsal dinner. You better write it down because you will forget. Write everything down because you'll get emotional.’ He said that speaking from experience of having two boys go through it."

 

"It had been some time since we talked, and just out of the blue (Phillips) called thinking about us and thinking about me experiencing that. It's just neat for him to call and talk about that.

 

Knight later added, “his funeral was unbelievable and a testament to the type of person that he was."

 

While Phillips' personality was memorable, his actions were just as much as of a testament to who he was.

 

A story about Phillips was recently told to Engle by Phillips’ neighbors. Engle said the story is a perfect example of Phillips’ kindness.

 

In the story, Phillips was at a local grocery store, one night around 10 p.m. in December. It was a cold night, about 15 degrees, and there was a homeless woman with a child around age 10.

 

“He walked up to that woman and said, 'Just stay right here. I'll be right back. Don't leave,'" recalled Engle.

 

Engle said Phillips went to the neighbors’ house and knocked on the door. Phillips told them that he needed clothes and, without hesitation, the neighbor gave him the items he requested. 

 

“Phillips went back to the store and found the lady and gave them the warm clothes for the night. He took a picture of them with the girl and her momma wearing the clothes and went back to the neighbor's house and showed them (the picture)."

 

For Engle, the legacy and life that Phillips left behind is something that anyone should try and model. 

 

"His love for humanity itself (was one thing) … but, I guess, the main thing was the love he had for God," Engle said. "He always saw the best in everybody. He never said anything negative about anybody. He was just a unique individual."

Last week, the Pine Belt lost a key figure in the sports community.

Longtime official Forrest Phillips was killed in a car crash on Feb. 5 while coming back from officiating a basketball game in Louisiana.

Phillips' death was more than just the loss of a local sports figure. It was the loss of a man who was admired and loved.

His funeral was standing room only, and numerous coaches attended. According to former longtime Petal coach and now Sacred Heart coach Larry Watkins, who had known Phillips for roughly 30 years, Phillips always handled himself correctly.

"He handled (officiating) probably better than anybody," Watkins said. "He really did. He always kept his head and would say, 'OK, that's enough, let's go play.' I really respected him as an official and a person.

"If there was a mix-up on a call, he wanted to get it right. That's the way to do it."

Longtime friend and fellow official Greg Engle explained how Phillips handled himself on the field, which is why so many coaches respected him.

"When he walked onto the field, it was all business," Engle said. "If he blew a call and a coach would come out, he would say 'Coach, I missed it, but we are going to move on, that's my call. Let's go.' He'd say, 'You're right, we missed it, but we have to move on.'

Engle explained how that is an important part of being an official.

"The main thing I learned from Charlie (Forrest's father) and Forrest is to own up to it if we make a mistake," Engle said. "It's not the friendship part of it. It's respect for it. He never walked anywhere on the field. He hustled wherever he went to get into his position. That's what the coaches expect out of us: the officials to be in a position to make the call whether we get them right or wrong. That's what I mean by the respect the coaches have for him."

For many, Phillips was a man who not only respected people but also genuinely cared about people, which is why he was so respected on and off the field.

A big part of Phillips was his phone calls. Phillips called coaches after games, win or lose, always checked on his friends and sincerely asked about each person's family.

"He seemed to always call at the right time," Sumrall baseball coach Larry Knight said. "It could have been that we lost a tough game in high school, and he would call the next morning or the next day and ask about the game. He would ask if I was doing OK and then, of course, always asked about the family. (He was) just a caring person that definitely put others before himself."

Knight, who had known Phillips since he was a teenager, remembered a recent phone call that illustrated Phillips' character. It was right before Knight’s son's wedding this past December.

"He called me right before my son's wedding and said, 'Look, I'm just calling you to prepare you for when you give that talk at the rehearsal dinner. You better write it down because you will forget. Write everything down because you'll get emotional.’ He said that speaking from experience of having two boys go through it.

"It had been some time since we talked, and just out of the blue (Phillips) called thinking about us and thinking about me experiencing that. It's just neat for him to call and talk about that."

Knight later added, “his funeral was unbelievable and a testament to the type of person that he was."

While Phillips' personality was memorable, his actions were just as much as of a testament to who he was.

A story about Phillips was recently told to Engle by Phillips’ neighbors. Engle said the story is a perfect example of Phillips’ kindness.

In the story, Phillips was at a local grocery store, one night around 10 p.m. in December. It was a cold night, about 15 degrees, and there was a homeless woman with a child around age 10.

“He walked up to that woman and said, 'Just stay right here. I'll be right back. Don't leave,'" recalled Engle.

Engle said Phillips went to the neighbors’ house and knocked on the door. Phillips told them that he needed clothes and, without hesitation, the neighbor gave him the items he requested.

“Phillips went back to the store and found the lady and gave them the warm clothes for the night. He took a picture of them with the girl and her momma wearing the clothes and went back to the neighbor's house and showed them (the picture)."

For Engle, the legacy and life that Phillips left behind is something that anyone should try and model.

"His love for humanity itself (was one thing) … but, I guess, the main thing was the love he had for God," Engle said. "He always saw the best in everybody. He never said anything negative about anybody. He was just a unique individual."

 

Photo courtesty of the Philips family.