Phil Glover's life was a prescription for going nowhere. The son of an absent father and a troubled mother, he was on his own by 14, bouncing around from house to house, living with friends. And then his teenage girlfriend became pregnant. At 17, he was a father - a child with a child. As young lives go, this one wasn't exactly off to a promising start. In the game of life, he was losing big early in the first quarter.
But here he is these few years later, sitting in the shade after a recent football practice. Some would say he has it made in the shade. He is just two semesters from obtaining a degree in exercise and sports science at the University of Utah. A star linebacker for the Utes, he is likely to be taken high in this spring's NFL draft. His pregnant girlfriend is now his wife, Carmen, and they have two children and live in a duplex near campus. We're talking major comeback here."I don't like to look ahead," he says. "I'm just trying to have a good senior year and take care of school and football."
He doesn't talk much about the past; there are parts of it he won't discuss beyond a sentence or two. Behind Glover are the days when, having owned up to his responsibility to his girlfriend and his unborn child, he made them a family, working as many as three jobs to support them while also finishing high school and playing two sports. Unlike him, his children would have a father, he determined. And so would his younger brother. Shortly after becoming a father, he took his brother into his house to save him from the streets, supporting him, caring for him and seeing him through high school.
"I think about it everyday," says Carmen. "That I ended up with somebody who stuck by both of us, me and our child."
It helped that Glover always had football. It brought him friends, jobs, a scholarship, an education and the potential for a rich professional career. At 6-foot, 235 pounds, he has a 38-inch vertical leap and 4.48 speed and ranks among the top three on the entire Ute team in bench press (432 pounds) and squats (522). He already has been invited to play in the Senior Bowl, a postseason showcase for the nation's top seniors, and he's an official candidate for the Butkus Award, given annually to the nation's top linebacker.
Glover reminds many of Anthony Davis, a former Ute linebacker who had such natural speed and athleticism that he stepped into the starting lineup the day he showed up at the Utes' fall training camp without knowing a thing about Utah's defensive scheme. Now Davis starts for the Kansas City Chiefs.
"The difference is that Phil is a more disciplined player than Anthony was at this stage," says Ute coach Ron McBride.
In many ways, it was that discipline, combined with a deep streak of responsibility, that brought Glover this far. He was 10 years old when his father left his mother and moved to Las Vegas, taking Phil with him. He set up house there with another woman, but a few years later home life began to unravel again. His father left home. So did Phil, in a different direction. He could have stayed with his stepmother, but "I didn't want to listen to anyone," he recalls. "We banged heads. We didn't get along."
Glover, who didn't speak with his father for a couple of years, lived with various friends for a time before settling in with pal Chance Larsen and his family. Then Carmen became pregnant. She was 18, he was 16. Phil had made one mistake, but he decided to own up to it. Both Phil and Carmen knew what it was to be fatherless. Her parents had divorced when she was 12 and moved out of state. They didn't want to repeat the sins of the fathers.
"A lot of people leave when they're scared," says Phil. "Initially, I guess I was scared. But I sat back and thought about it. What would I be doing to that child if I left? I know how that feels. It's hard not to have your father around."
Says Carmen: "At first I was scared, but knowing the type of person Phil is, it never crossed my mind that our child would not have a dad."
Phil moved in with Carmen's parents and sought work. His football stardom pulled strings. "The Las Vegas community rallied behind Phil," says Carmen. "If there was a job, he was the first to know about it."
Phil went to school in the morning, worked a couple of hours as a trainer at Gold's Gym, attended afternoon classes and football or wrestling practice, then delivered pizzas until midnight or so. On Sunday, he and Carmen bused tables at the Desert Inn.
"We did what we had to do to make ends meet," he says. "It's something we had to do. We had to be responsible and move on."
The baby, Tevin, was born midway through Phil's junior year; by then, Carmen had graduated. A few months after the baby was born, Glover decided to care for another child as well. His younger brother Thomas, who was 13 at the time, was living with their mother in the notorious neighborhoods of south-central Los Angeles.
"They lived in a jungle," says Glover. "There were riots there at the time. I was worried about him. My mother couldn't properly watch him. I'd rather not get into the reasons. I wanted to bring him to Las Vegas to live with us. He was never going to amount to much if I didn't get him out of there. He wasn't going to school. He was a good kid, but he needed help. I talked to my wife and we thought we could handle it."
Phil drove to California to pick up Thomas and took him back to Las Vegas. Phil was only 17 himself, so Carmen had to sign the papers to become Thomas' legal guardian until Phil came of age. Phil and Carmen rented an apartment near their high school and Thomas moved in with them, helping with baby-sitting chores.
Phil finished high school and, after weighing offers from Utah, Washington State, San Diego State, Oregon State, Oregon and Arizona State, he accepted a football scholarship from Washington State. He lasted two years with the Cougars before transferring to Utah.
"The coaches and I kept banging heads over playing time and other things," he says. "I was not reaching my potential." After a redshirt season, he stepped into Utah's lineup last fall and had 90 tackles, 53 of them unassisted. This spring he hopes to play in the NFL, but, with the completion of his degree in May, he also plans to pursue a career in physical therapy.
Meanwhile, he supports his family on money earned this summer as a bouncer at a club and a counselor at a youth correctional facility. NCAA rules forbid athletes - even ones with families - from holding jobs during the season, but Carmen does nails at a professional salon, as she has for years, to help with expenses.
The Glovers had their second child two years ago, a daughter named Absatie, to go with Tevin, now 5. "I love 'em," says Phil. "They are what I live for. They're why I beat myself up everyday." Thomas graduated from East High last spring and is working for the Job Corps in Clearfield.
"The difference between me and others is I chose to be responsible," says Glover, looking back. "I decided I can't do what's been done to me. Some guys step up to the plate. It hurts me when someone doesn't accept the responsibilities of being a father. It's not fair to the child."
Would he recommend early parenthood? "No, I wouldn't," he says. "It's just so hard. You need to grow up yourself before you have kids."