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He plainly gave his most tender care and deepest love to his family. He also received his most profound joy from the same. Bill Phillips' legacy will live on through his four sons because they were his foremost priority, and have the imprint of a man who led from the front with a true heart.
A minute before the opening kickoff of the 113th Big Game between Cal and Stanford on Nov. 20, Andrew Phillips veered from a scrum of teammates. Seeking out a secluded spot behind the bench, he took a knee. It had long been his pregame ritual to send up a quick prayer. As of this season, he finishes the prayer with a direct address to Bill: All right, Pop, let's do this! Then he points to the sky.
A week earlier Cal's ballyhooed defensive line had given top-ranked Oregon fits in a 15--13 near-upset. But the Bears simply had no answers to Harbaugh's power attack. Stanford scored on touchdown drives of 95, 86, 90 and 61 yards... . in the first half.
Sitting in Section P at Cal's Memorial Stadium, a blonde woman in Stanford colors was breathing more easily. "O.K.," said Lily Stevens Becker, her team up 31-nil, "it's getting to the point where I'm not incredibly nervous."
A daughter of Ted Stevens, she is a Stanford alumna and an old friend of the Phillips family. To support Andrew and celebrate the lives of their fathers, both of whom perished in the same crash, Lily, with her husband, Preston, made it to nearly all of Stanford's games this season—an especially deep commitment on the part of Preston, a Cal alum.
"Coming to these games, supporting Andrew, is healing for us," said Lily.
Preston is all for healing. But this is the Big Game, and he cannot bring himself to sit in the Stanford section. Lily understands. She's seated with a chipper 68-year-old named Bob White, Andrew's godfather, who can't get over the ass-whupping unfolding before him.
"They're just dominating the line of scrimmage," he effused. "Andrew in particular. Have you been watching him? I swear, the kid's getting better every week!"