Dillard authored one of the best comeback stories at Nebraska in recent years. After he suffered a season-ending injury midway through the 2008 campaign, then dropped on the linebacker depth chart during spring ball and fall camp, he was nowhere to be found on the football field during the Huskers first two 2009 contests. The coaches finally let him suit up, as he moved back into the starting lineup for nine of his twelve appearances.
Thanks to his hard work under the guidance of Nebraska's strength and conditioning coach, James Dobson, the staff saw that Dillard was a "new man." No longer playing the "battle of the bulge," more the result from inactivity due to large amounts of time recovering from his rash of injuries, he developed into the perfect compliment playing behind Nebraska's renowned defensive front wall.
"Obviously this is the best shape I've been in, and Coach Dobson has stayed on me about that so I can be a better player. I trust in everything he's doing," Dillard stated, as he dug out of an offseason hole to make the most of his senior season. If not for sitting the Huskers' first two games, he likely would have led the team in tackles. He called it "very exciting" to see his future completely change from what it looked like a year ago.
"I think what I went through was the best thing for me, and not knowing if I was going to play again was the best thing for me," Dillard said. "Because even if you are humble, it's even more of a humbling experience, and you're more grateful and you're more appreciative of the time you get on the field with your teammates. When I got the chance to be out there, I didn't want to let them down, so I was doing the best I could to help. Everybody was playing at a high level, so I had to rise to it, too."
Dillard was one of the nation's top linebacker prospects after earning Oklahoma all-state honors for two consecutive seasons at Jenks High School, a Tulsa prep powerhouse. He led his team to a Class 6A state-runner-up finish in 2004, when he had more than 120 tackles, including 75 solo stops and three sacks, along with seven pass break-ups.
In his final two seasons with the varsity, Dillard totaled more than 200 tackles. He also caught four passes as a senior, three of which went for touchdowns. In addition to his All-State honors, he was named the Jim Thorpe Association Oklahoma Defensive Player of the Year as a junior in 2003.
Rivals.com ranked Dillard among the nation's top five prospects in Oklahoma and among the top five linebackers in the country in 2005. He was one of seven 2005 Nebraska recruits who played in the U.S. Army All-American game in San Antonio, as he helped the West squad to a 35-3 victory with an interception.
Dillard chose to enroll at Nebraska after also receiving scholarship offers from Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Texas A&M, among others. He played in eleven games in 2005, earning his first career start at middle linebacker vs. Missouri, but spent the rest of the year backing up Corey McKeon at the position. He finished his first varsity season with eleven tackles (7 solos) and a stop for a loss.
Again listed behind McKeon entering the 2007 campaign, Dillard suffered an anterior cruciate ligament tear vs. Louisiana Tech in the season opener, missing the rest of the schedule. He would return the following season, starting twice while still caddying for McKeon. He managed to record 37 tackles (22 solos) with two pass break-ups.
With McKeon finally graduated, the middle linebacker spot was Dillard's to claim in 2008. He was having a solid early part of the season, but suffered two injuries that would sideline him for most of the second half of the schedule, first spraining his knee vs. Texas Tech in mid-October and then, severely spraining his ankle in the Baylor clash that kept him out of the team's final four regular season contests.
Dillard closed out the 2008 campaign with 38 tackles (13 solos) with two stops behind the line of scrimmage, starting five of the nine games he appeared in. His injury woes would linger throughout 2009 preseason camp.
After missing the first two games of the 2009 campaign for undisclosed reasons, Dillard began to work his way back. Having lost the middle linebacker's job to Will Compton, the senior would shift to weak-side linebacker, earning nine starts, including in each of the team's final eight games. He collected a career-best 83 tackles (45 solos), two hits short of the team lead. His average of 6.92 tackles per game ranked 13th in the league.
The All-Big Twelve Conference second-team selection was one of five Huskers to register double-digit (11) tackles-for-loss in 2009. He also had three sacks while registering career firsts, with his only forced fumble and interception since he put on a Nebraska uniform.
One of eleven Huskers to graduate in December, 2009, Dillard thought that he would spend the winter months preparing for the NFL Combine and Texas vs. The Nation Game in February. The senior received a late invitation to the prestigious Senior Bowl, and made the most of that grand opportunity, serving notice on NFL teams that the "New" Phillip Dillard was not a fluke during his impressive senior season.
"When I got that phone call I didn't want to sound like a little girl, but I was yelling and jumping up and down," Dillard said. "I was hyped. Coach Bo (Pelini) told me and he was hyped too. I just couldn't even express how excited and how fortunate and humbled I was to even be in it."
Dillard appeared in 45 games at Nebraska, starting seventeen contests – nine at weak-side outside linebacker as a senior and seven at middle linebacker during his first four seasons with the Huskers…Recorded 173 tackles (90 solos) with 3.5 sacks for minus 33 yards, 15.0 stops for losses of 57 yards and six quarterback pressures…Deflected six passes and intercepted another for a 9-yard return…Also caused a fumble.
Dillard earned All-Big Twelve Conference second-team honors…Recipient of the Tom Novak Award, an honor which "best exemplifies courage and determination despite all odds in the manner of Nebraska All-America center Tom Novak," presented annually at the Outland Trophy Award dinner…Dillard sat out the team's first two games vs. Florida Atlantic and Arkansas State, but would see action in the Huskers' final twelve contests, starting nine, including the final eight at weak-side outside linebacker…Despite his absence early in the schedule, he finished second on the team with a career-best 83 tackles (45 solos), just two shy of team leader, Ndamukong Suh, as Dillard finished with an average of 6.92 tackles per games (13th in the Big Twelve)…Registered 11.0 stops for losses of 45 yards, including three sacks for minus 27 yards, as he also collected four quarterback pressures…Broke up three passes and intercepted another for a 9-yard return, as he also caused a fumble…Helped the Huskers rank ninth in the nation in rush defense (93.14 ypg), seventh in total defense (272.00 ypg), second in sacks generated (3.14 pg) and first in scoring defense, allowing just 10.43 points per game…In eight of the games Dillard appeared in, the Huskers held those opponents to under 100 yards rushing.
2009 GAME HIGHLIGHTS
Virginia Tech*…Started game at after moving to weak-side outside linebacker during week of practice, recorded five stops, including four assists, along with one stop for a loss... Helped limit the opposition to 86 yards and one touchdown on 37 carries and 278 total yards on 64 plays.
Louisiana-Lafayette…Dillard made three solo tackles, adding his first solo sack of his career when he dropped QB Chris Masson for a five-yard loss…Helped limit the opposition to 102 yards and no touchdowns on 37 carries and 222 total yards on 64 plays.
Texas Tech…Dillard had the best game of his career with a personal-best 12 tackles (8 solos), as he also collected four of those stops behind the line of scrimmage...Helped limit the opposition to 25 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries and 259 total yards on 57 plays.
Iowa State…Named the game captain, Dillard responded with another 12 tackles for second straight game to lead the team...Five stops were solos, with four coming on third-down plays…Helped limit the opposition to 137 yards and no touchdowns on 48 carries and 239 total yards on 67 plays.
Baylor…The senior posted five tackles including four assists...Despite not playing in the team's first two games of the season, Dillard already set a personal career-high with 40 so far in 2009…Helped limit the opposition to 54 yards and no touchdowns on 32 carries and 276 total yards on 70 plays.
Oklahoma…Dillard continued his strong play with eight tackles, including five solo stops, while posting two hits behind the line of scrimmage for minus 18 yards, including a 13-yard sack of QB Landry Jones, as Dillard's 9-yard interception killed another scoring drive in a 10-3 Nebraska decision…Helped limit the opposition to 80 yards and no touchdowns on 29 carries and 325 total yards on 87 plays.
Kansas…Again named game captain, Dillard had six tackles (four assists) to tie for second on team, as he added his first two quarterback hurries of the season…Helped limit the opposition to 99 yards and one touchdown on 29 carries and 335 total yards on 70 plays.
Kansas State…Dillard's aggressive play led to eight tackles, including six solo stops, as he caused a fumble on a 9-yard sack of QB Grant Gregory, adding a pass break-up and quarterback pressure…Helped limit the opposition to 140 yards and no touchdowns on 34 carries and 293 total yards on 67 plays.
Colorado…Dillard led the team with eight tackles, including four solo stops...His QB pressure resulted in a second-quarter interception…Helped limit the opposition to 134 yards and no touchdowns on 28 carries and 403 total yards on 72 plays.
Before missing the final four games of the regular season, Dillard emerged as a leader in the linebacker corps and ranked among the team leaders in tackles…His play assisted an NU defense that finished second in the Big Twelve in total defense (349.85 ypg) and improved its per game average by 126 yards per game….Recorded 38 tackles (13 solos) while starting five of the nine games he appeared in at middle linebacker…Had an assisted sack and two stops for losses of 9 yards…Credited with a QB pressure and a pass break-up…Suffered a knee sprain vs. both Missouri and Texas Tech, but played in the next two games before he was shut down for the final four regular season contests when he hurt his ankle vs. Baylor.
2008 GAME HIGHLIGHTS
Added two tackles for loss and shared a sack vs. San Jose State….Made four tackles in the opener vs. Western Michigan, then had eight stops vs. San Jose State….Collected a season-high 11 tackles vs. Virginia Tech, and made four stops vs. Missouri before being injured.
Dillard played in all twelve games at middle linebacker, splitting time with senior Corey McKeon…Started vs. Missouri and Oklahoma State and finished the year with 37 tackles (22 solos)…Had one stop behind the line of scrimmage, a QB pressure and two pass deflections.
2007 GAME HIGHLIGHTS
Dillard had five games with four or more tackles, including a season-high six tackles each vs. Wake Forest and Ball State…Added five tackles at Missouri and had four tackles vs. both Kansas and Iowa State…Recorded his lone tackle for loss of the year vs. Oklahoma State.
Dillard showed great promise early vs. Louisiana Tech, making four tackles, including three solo stops, before going down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee… Spent the remainder of the season going through rehabilitation and received a medical redshirt.
Dillard played in eleven games as a true freshman, starting the Missouri contest…Posted 11 tackles (7 solos) with one stop for a 2-yard loss.
Attended Jenks (Tulsa, Okla.) High School, playing football as a junior and senior for head coach Allen Trimble…One of the nation's top linebacker prospects after earning Oklahoma All-State honors for two consecutive seasons…Led his team to a Class 6A state-runner-up finish in 2004, when he had more than 120 tackles, including 75 solo stops and three sacks, along with seven pass break-ups…In his final two seasons, Dillard totaled more than 200 tackles…Also caught four passes as a senior, three of which went for touch-downs…In addition to his All-State honors from nearly every media outlet, Dillard was named the Jim Thorpe Association Oklahoma Defensive Player of the Year as a junior in 2003…One of seven 2005 Nebraska recruits who played in the U.S. Army All-American game in San Antonio, as Dillard helped the West squad to a 35-3 win with an interception…
Rivals.com ranked Dillard among the nation's top five prospects in Oklahoma and among the top five linebackers in the country in 2005.
Sociology major…Has an eye towards becoming a detective in his post-football career…
Volunteered his time with the Read to Succeed Book Drive and Nebraska's local hospital visits…Guardians are Tyrone and Ronda Lynne…Born 12/10/86…Resides in Tulsa, Oklahoma.