A 33-year veteran teacher and coach was surprised today with a trip to Super Bowl LI in Houston after being nominated by more than 100 people he has helped throughout his career.
Phillip Rhodes is a world geography teacher and junior varsity head football coach, assistant varsity football coach and head boy’s track coach at Childress High School in Childress, Texas.
When "Good Morning America" put out a call for a deserving coach that changed the lives of students and athletes, responses poured in singling out Rhodes.
“He's the guy you can always count on,” one nominator wrote of Rhodes. “He's the coach that sees if a student needs some new clothes or shoes, he'll go and buy them whatever they need, no matter the cost.”
“Junior year of high school he wrote us all handwritten little notes that told us our strengths and weakness and how to use those strengths and how to overcome/work on those weaknesses,” wrote a former student. “[It] meant the world to me and I still have that note today!”
“My younger sister is mentally handicapped and went to high school at CHS,” wrote another former student. “Coach Rhodes sat and had lunch with her every day. She had a lunch buddy every day because of this man.”
Rhodes, a lifelong Oakland Raiders fan who also supports the Dallas Cowboys, has never before attended a Super Bowl. This weekend he will watch the New England Patriots take on the Atlanta Falcons at Super Bowl LI in his home state thanks to NFL On Location Experiences, which is providing Rhodes with game tickets, on-field access for the post-game celebration and VIP access to parties featuring performances by Lady Antebellum and Bruno Mars.
"I've been watching [the Super Bowl] every single year since 1970," Rhodes said, adding that he has never attended an NFL game because he prepares with his Childress High School athletes on Sundays. "I'm glad to finally get to go see one."
Deion Sanders, Rhodes' favorite football player, also sent a special, videotaped message to Rhodes congratulating him on his service to students.
"I heard you are a fan of mine. Guess what my man, I am a fan of yours," said Sanders, who Rhodes will also get to meet at the Super Bowl. "You are totally awesome."
Rhodes, who was raised by his mother and grandmother, was a college track athlete. His first job out of college was as both a teacher and a coach, a career he remains in 33 years later.
Over the course of his career, Rhodes has coached more than 3,000 students across nearly every sport at Childress High School, including baseball and basketball in addition to football and track.
"This is great," Rhodes said of the surprise tribute from his current and former students. "I didn't expect this."