The legacy of anyone in the coaching profession is defined in a variety of forms. Bricks and mortar can display ones accomplishments. Some coaches tell their life story in wins and losses. Our final inductees did those, but hangs his hat on the young men he helped develop into working professionals, standout citizens, fine husbands, and loving parents.
In 1988, MC Athletic Director Randy Lambert was determined to stabilize the football program that had seen four new head coaches since 1980. Coach Lambert looked to a Marshall graduate and present Wofford assistant coach to fill MC’s void for the next 15 seasons. Head Coach Phil Wilks brought that stability along with a determination to create a program that would excel both on and off the field.
Coach Wilks took control of a program of only 29 players in March of 1988. He quickly turned the program into a regionally respected and competitive team.
From 1988-1992, his first five years at the helm, he was able to finish with just under a .500 record going 23-26, which included a 7-3 mark in 1991. MC has only posted a 7-3 record two additional times in their 119 years of collegiate football, 1999 and 2007.
Because of MC’s independent status, the Fighting Scots played over 40% of their contests during Wilks’ era against NAIA scholarship or higher division schools.
The 1991 season saw Maryville earn wins over rivals Rhodes 14-7, Centre 21-5, and Tusculum 37-19. His squads repeated their success in 1992 with back-to-back wins over Centre and Rhodes. During this five year span of growth and development, Wilks and his staff were able to produce some of the most talented players in MC football history. All-American free safety Pat Wade and three-time All-American offensive lineman Thomas Smith went to war weekly for Wilk’s Scots.
Thomas Smith had this to say about his head coach, “Not only was he a great coach on the field, but he really knew how to connect with the players and we enjoyed playing for him.”
The next five seasons under Wilks (1993-1997) saw additional history being made annually. In 1993 his Scots were able to defeat Emory & Henry 12-7 for the first time since 1982. He concluded this era with another win over the Wasps by the score of 27-24 in 1997. A trio of All-American roamed Honaker Field under his supervision. Smith concluded his career of dominance on the offensive line. All-Americans Peter Oaks and Lorenzo Howard paced Coach Jim Pavao’s defense. In 1995 Howard put together one of the best defensive seasons ever seen in the orange and garnet with seven interceptions in one season.
During this time frame, Coach Wilks was also instrumental in the development of the Lloyd L. Thornton Stadium, which includes today’s modern day press box, concession stand, restrooms and visiting bleachers. He was also a driving force at the end of his career to secure a gift from Don Story to renovate the Honaker Field playing surface and create the captains walk.
Jim Pavao, present day assistant head coach at Gainesville High School, and former long time assistant with the Scots had this to say about Phil. “Coach Wilks is a true professional. He coached his players to play with great intensity and character. He is a great role model and true friend. I would like to thank him for everything he has done for so many of his players and assistant coaches.”
Coach Wilks’ final five seasons in the Orange and Garnet (1998-2002) saw MC post the program’s third 7-3 season in 1999. Wilks was once again able to swat the Wasps of Emory & Henry 21-10, making it the last time Maryville has defeated Emory on the gridiron. Coach Wilks’ emphasis of excellence on the field and in the classroom was even more evident as offensive lineman Brian Gossett and punter Doug Loomis earned Academic All-American honors under Wilks tutelage.
In Coach Wilks’s 15 seasons, he produced seven All-Americans, a pair of Academic All-Americans, a Disney Scholar Athlete Finalist, a Burger King Scholar Athlete winner, and an AFCA All-Good Works Team Member. Numerous school standards have still yet to be eclipsed today of players under Coach Wilks’ tenure. Nick White’s 16 pass break ups in a season may never be broken. Chris McCarty’s 10 sacks in a season has yet to be approached. Armond Akiboh’s 1,069 rushing yards in 1996 leads MC rushers with only four players in history to ever have a 1,000 yard rushing season.
Throughout Coach Wilks’ 15 year tenure, he was able to accumulate 61 career victories, the second most wins in MC history behind only the legendary Lombe Hoanker who won 159 games in 38 seasons. Coach Wilk’s legacy may be the wins, the facilities, the accolades, or even the program development but his players got the message that they were challenge to win in the game of life. Quarterback Kelly Moore had this to say of his leader,” He was a lot like a father figure because the lessons that he taught went much further than football.”
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you 2012 Maryville College Wall of Fame inductee Coach Phil Wilks.