THURSDAY, JULY 26, 2012
Philpart knocking down walls in Sharks debut
Life has moved fast for former JU wide receiver Josh Philpart since his May graduation. First he couldn’t buy a break into pro football and now he’s trying to avoid breaks – of his bones – as he runs into and over Arena Football League walls.

Philpart, from Deerfield Beach, Fla., exited school as the all-time receiving leader with 2,831 yards and 35 touchdowns. Now, he’s scoring for the AFL Jacksonville Sharks and has a playoff game upcoming Saturday at 7 p.m. against the Georgia Force at Veterans Memorial Arena downtown.

Philpart’s carpet ride of an adventure trying to hook on with any pro team began just days after graduation.

Pro days here and there and workouts with Hamilton and Toronto of the Canadian league went nowhere and a three-day rookie minicamp (five practices) with the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings came up empty as they said he was too small at 6-0, 170.

Despite the rejection, Philpart kept the cell phone on and it didn’t take long for it to ring again, this time with Sharks’ management on the other end. They needed someone to run routes in practice so Philpart got a two-day workout.

“They liked me,’’ Philpart, unwaveringly quiet and understated, said.

Indeed, they apparently did, called him back for another work out and were ready to sign him when the team got hit by injuries at other positions keeping Philpart at bay.

Early June came, another call, and Philpart was signed and playing at the professional level.

“They liked me because I brought something different,’’ he said. “They’ve got a bunch of big receivers and I was quick and ran good routes.’’

His career got off to a slow start but once he got going Philpart has shown it will be hard for the team not to play him.

He didn’t play his first game after signing but got in on his second game, against Philadelphia, playing sparingly in the first half and quite a bit late. Next game, special teams and he didn’t travel to New Orleans.

On July 6, a 50-32 win over Milwaukee, Philpart made the most of his opportunity and put himself on the national stage.

In a game televised by NFL Network, he scored three times and as the football gods would have it his first touchdown, on a “poco’’ route where he has the option to go to either the post or corner of the end zone, happened in front of a pair of former JU teammates, Rolando Fines and Jordan Dewhirst, who were sitting in the corner of the end zone where he scored. He didn’t toss them the ball, he kept it for himself.

Philpart wasn’t done.

The following week he scored twice against Pittsburgh (one receiving and one rushing) and scored for a sixth time against Orlando the week after.

“It’s wild,’’ Philpart said of his recent ride. “My breakout game was on NFL Network and I had family from everywhere calling to tell me they had seen it.’’

Besides being on national television, Philpart says there are plenty of other adjustments to the AFL.

“There’s a lot of high motion and the (pass) routes are different and you run the routes different,’’ he said.

And then, there’s the wall that encircles the short field.

“The wall is a tough adjustment,’’ he said. “You have to get a couple of knocks on it and go over it a couple of times to get used to it, but some of the guys who have played in the league a couple of years say you never really get used to it. You just know it’s there and you have to be ready to catch the ball before you go over it.’’

- Jim Nasella