Conversation: Houston Roughnecks head coach Wade Phillips (Part 2)

Dec 31, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Roughnecks head coach Wade Phillips talks to the crowd before the game between the Houston Cougars and the Central Florida Knights at Fertitta Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Conversation: Houston Roughnecks head coach Wade Phillips (Part 2)

The leader of the newest edition of the Houston XFL franchise shared his thoughts on his new team and more in the second installment of this two-part interview with Gallery Sports’ Patrick Creighton.

PC: Looking at the offensive skill position players, are there players that have started to separate themselves? Players that the fans should be looking for yet?

WP: We have a couple of guys. At running back, we have a guy from Delaware, Dejoun Lee, who is tremendously fast. He’s short, like a Darren Sproles kind of guy, and he’s really fast. He’s really stood out in camp. We’ve got a guy named Max Borghi who played at Washington State in that Leach offense, who was a really good player at Washington State.

Receiver Justin Smith is one of the fastest guys I’ve ever been around in any league. We’re going to have guys that can make plays, I believe.

One other guy, Garrett Owens, he’s about 6-foot-2 and about 235. He ran a 10.8 100 meters. He’s a real talent. We’re going to use him at tight end, running back, and wide receiver. He’s a special player. I haven’t seen a guy like him in a long time.

PC: 6-2, 235; that’s a big dude to be running that quick.

WP: Yeah. He scored like 40 touchdowns in high school, then he went on to play at smaller schools (in college). He has 150 catches in college and over 4,000 yards rushing. He’s an amazing guy. I don’t know how he got overlooked, but we’re not overlooking him.

PC: That’s a real interesting combination. That size, be a receiver, be a running back, someone you can utilize like a Deebo Samuels type of guy where he can be everywhere.

WP: He gives you the versatility. The other teams, they don’t know if you’re going to line him up in the backfield, or at tight end, or at wide receiver. Sometimes you can have a tight end in the game or not have a tight end in the game, and they (opponents) don’t know.

PC: That’s definitely a guy that I want to watch!

PC: You mentioned Coach Leach multiple times. How well did you know Coach Leach, and what was your relationship with him?

WP: Actually, he and I had the same agent, so I’ve known him for a long time. We even talked about when he went to Mississippi State, me going to Mississippi State, but I wanted to stay in pro football.

PC: How different is Mississippi State from coaching in the NFL? How different is it?

WP: The NFL, pro football is all coaching, it’s not recruiting. Recruiting is more than half of college coaching. High school and pro ball are similar in that it’s mostly coaching. College is really completely different.

PC: You coached J.J. Watt, and now he’s retiring. He was asked about would he be interested in coaching. He said he loves the idea of teaching guys, but the amount of other work that’s involved is so much work and is such a time commitment that he doesn’t think he wants to do that. How much of a time commitment is it? What is your day like as the head coach of a team?

WP: A lot of people say they work hard, or they work so many weeks. We work seven days a week for months and months. It’s a little bit different there. It is a time commitment, you have to watch it to make sure you are with your family enough and see your kids growing up.

PC: J.J. was also asked about what he thought of DeMeco Ryans being a potential head coaching candidate. He’s the lead candidate here for the Houston Texans. You got to coach DeMeco for one year. From what you remember coaching DeMeco Ryans, what kind of player was he? Do you think he’s the kind of guy who would make a really good head coach?

WP: Yes. First of all, I think he’d be a good head coach. Just knowing him, he’s the right kind of person. He’s what I call a good person. He’s a guy you can count on, trustworthy. He’s very smart and was well-liked by the other players. He was captain of the team when I was with the Texans, and we won the division and a playoff game for the first time in the history of the Texans when he was there.

They were 6-10 when I came there.

PC: And had a terrible defense.

WP: Yes. 31st, I think.

PC: They weren’t terrible the first year you were there; they were fourth.

WP: We might have been second.

PC: Yes. Second in yards.

WP: Yes. We were second in yards. Maybe the biggest turnaround in NFL history. It was fun. It was fun to have those guys. We drafted J.J. and some good players. It wasn’t all coaching, we had some good players. And Koob (Gary Kubiak) is a great coach.

PC: Going back to the Roughnecks, the teams train together?

WP: Well, there’s two teams at each venue.

PC: You’re all basically in the Arlington area?

WP: Yes.

PC: You’re paired up with the Arlington team. Do you run joint practices all the time? Do you have separate practice times?

WP: We have separate times. We have the afternoon, and Bob Stoops and the Renegades have morning practice.

PC: Your first game is Saturday, Feb. 18, 7:30 p.m. at TDECU Stadium.

WP: That’s right. We’re playing Orlando. We’re looking forward to it. Roughnecks started out (undefeated) last time. Our first three games are home games, so we’d like to do that same thing.

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