DUE WEST, S.C. (courtesy erskine.edu) — As Erskine College moves forward with a restart of its football program, the late David Gardiner ‘Dode’ Phillips III, who played for Erskine a century ago, from 1917-1921, was honored as a Legacy Inductee at the South Carolina Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Celebration earlier this year in Greenville.
Shap Boyd, named Erskine’s head football coach in 2018, and his wife Beth attended the ceremony, along with Phillips’ grandson, David Gardiner Phillips V, and football luminaries and fans from across the state of South Carolina.
“This was a star-studded event that included Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks, All-Pro running backs, an All-Pro defensive back, as well as a three-time All-Southeastern Conference player. To say that Dode Phillips was in good company would be an understatement,” Boyd said.
“The South Carolina Football Hall of Fame did a wonderful job of representing not only the more current players but the legends of the past.”
Richard Haldeman, honorary alumnus and retired Erskine public relations director, notes that Dode Phillips, the son of an Associate Reformed Presbyterian minister, entered Erskine College just two years after the school played its first full intercollegiate schedule in 1915.
The Erskine team, then known as the Seceders, “upset the University of South Carolina, 14-13, on a forward pass from Dode to future Erskine coach Jake ‘Jakie’ Todd,” Haldeman writes in his brief history of football at Erskine.
Phillips was also a talented baseball player who began a career with the Durham Bulls, but gave it up because he would not play on Sundays. He then coached high school football in Anderson, S.C., and Moultrie, Ga.
He served as a physical conditioning coach for cadets on the Erskine campus who were preparing for service in World War II, Haldeman said. His work at Erskine included stints in the admissions office and as public relations director, and he later coached football, basketball, and baseball at Erskine.
Concerning Phillips’ standing in South Carolina athletics, the South Carolina Football Hall of Fame biographical statement affirms that at the time of his death, “he was called Mr. Football of South Carolina, as the greatest athlete in South Carolina for the first half of the 20th century.”
In the first half of the 21st century, as Erskine builds a football program once again, Phillips’ life serves as a fitting inspiration for the school’s efforts. After retiring from Erskine, “Dode spent the remainder of his days sharing the Gospel, which some stated was Dode’s real sport,” according to the Hall of Fame biographical sketch.
Perhaps Athletic Director Mark Peeler’s pledge, made in the fall of 2018 when he announced the reinstatement of intercollegiate football at Erskine, might have won the approval of Dode Phillips.
“We will not compromise the college’s mission … with the addition of football,” Peeler said. “We will integrate all aspects of this program with our core values—first and foremost we are Christ-centered.”
Learn about the history of Erskine College football here.