One of the best

Rushing

1. Eric Bieniemy (1987-90): 3,940

2. Phillip Lindsay (2014-17): 3,635

3. Rodney Stewart (2008-11): 3,598

4. Rashaan Salaam (1992-94): 3,057

Scoring

1. Mason Crosby (2003-06): 307

2. Will Oliver (2011-14): 279

3. Eric Bieniemy: 254

4. Jeremy Aldrich (1996-99): 231

5. Phillip Lindsay: 228

Rushing touchdowns

1. Eric Bieniemy: 41

2. Phillip Lindsay: 35

3. Chris Brown: 34

3. Bob Anderson: 34

All-purpose yards

1. Phillip Lindsay: 5,675

2. Rodney Stewart: 4,828

3. Eric Bieniemy: 4,351

4. Hugh Charles: 3,622

Yards from scrimmage

1. Phillip Lindsay: 4,598

2. Rodney Stewart: 4,567

3. Eric Bieniemy: 4,320

Standing in the tunnel at Folsom Field on senior day on Nov. 11, emotions got the best of Darian Hagan when Phillip Lindsay's name was called to run onto the field for the final time.

"I'm going to miss him a lot," said Hagan, the Colorado running backs coach who has helped Lindsay develop into a star the past two years. "I was in the tunnel with him and when they called him out, I had to turn away. I knew it was the last time I was going to coach him at home. It was emotional.


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"He's an all-around good guy. He's a great football player, great person, great teammate, great son. He's a guy you love to be around because he's infectious. Now with him graduating, we have to find somebody that can do the same thing."

Good luck with that, coach.

In the history of CU football, there haven't been many like Lindsay and finding another one like him won't be easy.

Colorado running back Phillip Lindsay will play his final regular season game as a Buff on Saturday against Utah.
Colorado running back Phillip Lindsay will play his final regular season game as a Buff on Saturday against Utah. (Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer)

Sure, there are talented running backs that'll come along, but it's not simply talent that has made Lindsay an all-time great. Lindsay has found a way to pile bucket loads of energy, passion, loyalty, integrity, leadership, grit, determination and a tireless work ethic — in addition to his exceptional talent — into a 5-foot-8, 190-pound frame.

Lindsay, a Colorado native who starred at Denver South High School, will play his final regular season game in a CU uniform on Saturday when the Buffaloes (5-6, 2-6 Pac-12) visit Utah (5-6, 2-6). To get another game, he and the Buffs need to beat the Utes.

Regardless of the outcome, Lindsay's place in CU history is secure.

Nobody at CU has ever accumulated more yards from scrimmage or all-purpose yards and only four have scored more points (three, if Lindsay can get into the end zone against the Utes). He's the first running back at CU to catch at least 100 passes. Only the great Eric Bieniemy has more rushing yards and rushing touchdowns than Lindsay.

It's not exactly the career that CU head coach Mike MacIntyre envisioned when he first met Lindsay. Recruited by former head coach Jon Embree, Lindsay was a senior at South and recovering from a torn ACL when Embree was fired and MacIntyre was hired in December of 2012.

"The first time I ever met him, he couldn't even bend his knee and weighed about 150 pounds," MacIntyre said. "I just saw his energy inside of him that you see now and I said, 'I'm going to take this guy no matter what. I don't know if he'll ever play for us,' because at the time I wasn't sure and he wasn't either. My inner-gut told me you better take a chance on this guy, because he's something special just as a person."

Growing up

Cheri Lindsay, one of Phillip's two older sisters, laughed when asked to describe her brother as a kid.

"He was the biggest cry baby I've ever known in my life," she said. "He cried about everything."

To Phillip's credit, he didn't deny that.

"Yeah, I whined a lot," he said with a laugh.

Colorado running back Phillip Lindsay starred at Denver South before committing to play in Boulder.
Colorado running back Phillip Lindsay starred at Denver South before committing to play in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer)

It didn't take long for Phillip to realize, however, that growing up in the Lindsay household meant being tough.

"I'll never forget there was one time where I beat up my brother and I thought I was the man, and my father was like, 'OK, now it's your turn,'" Phillip said. "He brought Cheri in and Cheri beat the hell out of me. Ever since then, I've never messed with her."

That may sound rough, but the Lindsays are about as close as a family can be, in part because of the hard-knocks lessons they learned in the home.

"We have a really unique family, I would say, in that aspect," Cheri said. "It tends to shock people how close we all are. That's just how we've always been."

Troy — who played football at Colorado State — and Diane raised their two daughters (Sparkle and Cheri) and three sons (Phillip, Zach and Marcus) with a core set of values that Phillip still honors.

"The foundation I have right now is the same that's been in my family," he said. "The discipline I have at home, I brought here to college. Yeah, I wanted to do things, but was it the right thing? No, so I stayed within what I knew and how we did things.

"Every kid thinks their parent hasn't been there, but they set these rules because of stuff they've seen and done. The biggest thing I learned from my father was you don't have to try things and do things to know what it does to you."

When Phillip talks about his family, his words are coated in love, respect and reverence. The physical fights were long ago, and today all five siblings, now in different locations, talk daily, and often spend hours playing video games together.

"(Family) means to world to me," he said. "We never had money, but what my father and mother have always raised us on is each other - to have each other's back. There wasn't a day that went by that we didn't have each other's back. We didn't have friends, but we had each other and that's all we needed. We relied on each other, we helped each other, we felt each other's pain."

Early signs of greatness

Cheri remembers Phillip and Zach playing together on a Little League baseball team in Denver and watching Phillip pitch.

"He was actually throwing pretty good," she said. "That's when that athleticism really started showing through a lot."

When Phillip first started playing tackle football, he was instantly dominant.

"They would ask to see his birth certificate because they thought he was so much older than everybody because he was so much better than everybody," Cheri said.

When Phillip wasn't dominating, he was watching his siblings, especially Cheri and Sparkle, and learning from them. Both went on to play sports in college, and Phillip looked up to them from a young age.

"I remember being a ball boy for (Sparkle)," Phillip said. "It was so special to me to be able to go get the ball for her — she played basketball — and give it back to her so she could pass. I took pride in that. I liked just being around them."

It was during his youth that Phillip first learned the team aspect of football that he preaches today.

Troy was Phillip's coach and they ran a double-wing offense, with Phillip as the fullback and Zach as one of the wings. The other wing was a boy named Keenan, who suffered an injury.

"I was running the ball and had to do a lot more carrying," Phillip said. "I started to understand and I came to my father and was like, 'You know dad, we're going to need Keenan.' It's not just about me. We needed everybody to make the system work. That's when I understood it."

As Phillip grew up, his dominance from Little League carried over to high school. While at Denver South, he broke the Denver Prep League's career rushing record — a mark previously held by his father. (Zach and Marcus later became DPL MVPs before playing in college).

Phillip broke the DPL record in the first game of his senior year, when he rushed for 160 yards. In that game, however, he went down with a knee injury. Doctors were unsure how bad it was and two weeks later, Phillip ran for 139 yards in the first quarter against rival Denver East.

The knee kept bothering him, however, and he came out of the game. His senior year was over with a torn left ACL.

Battling back

As devastating as the knee injury was for Phillip, it may have been what propelled him to be great at CU.

"His knee injury I think made all the difference in the world to him," MacIntyre said.

Cheri had also torn her ACL and others in the family had dealt with knee surgeries. She saw Phillip take a mental leap after the injury.

"I think the bulk of his maturity came when he tore his ACL," Cheri said. "It takes a certain amount of maturity to really bounce back and still be able to compete at the level he's playing at. I think that really pushed him into the Phillip you guys see today, that drive you see and that well-roundedness you see. I think that all stemmed from that."

By then, Phillip was no longer the cry baby kid, but tears flowed during his recovery. He didn't have the greatest doctors and trainers around him, so a lot of the rehabilitation he did was at the home, with his family helping him fight through pain as he worked on strengthening his knee.

There were a lot of difficult moments during that time, including a genuine cause for concern when Embree was fired. Phillip was verbally committed to CU, but not signed, and when MacIntyre chose to honor that commitment, it was the boost Phillip needed.

"When he didn't get his scholarship taken away, it gave him a little bit of life," Cheri said.

Hagan was CU's director of player personnel at the time and was confident Phillip would recover and be a great player for the Buffs.

"We knew he was undersized and had to put some weight on, but the thing you didn't really understand was his toughness, his heart," Hagan said. "When I saw that, I knew that he had a chance to be really, really special."

Being a Buff

As a true freshman in 2013, Phillip wore a brace on his knee and wasn't completely recovered from injury, but he was on the field and his energy and motor stood out.

"He's a fireball, man, and he plays with a chip on his shoulder, almost like some of the walk-on kids that really are trying to prove themselves," Klayton Adams, then CU's running backs coach (and now offensive line coach), said in August of 2013. "He plays with a fire in his eye and you've got to love it."

Phillip redshirted in 2013 and spent much of the 2014 and 2015 seasons sharing carries with others. By 2016, he was the Buffs' featured back, and over the last two years he's become one of the top all-around backs in the country.

Phillip believes he's one of the best in the country, yet he's almost uncomfortable talking about himself. That all goes back to that time when his friend Keenan got hurt in Little League.

"You start to make stuff about you, it's selfish and it's greed, and you start to look back and you lose friendships and you start to lose a lot of respect and you start to see that you're alone," he said. "There's nobody to talk to and there's nobody to enjoy anything with. You don't want to be that person that just cares about yourself, because it's not about yourself."

Ironically, as he's piled up impressive statistics and approached Bieniemy's records, the focus has been on Phillip. Yet, he again emphasized his team.

"I never paid attention to (records), because I just never thought ... it's not that I didn't think I could do it, I just never knew how close I was," he said. "I just kept going, because I wasn't doing it for that.

"Bieniemy was a bad dude, but he also had a bad backing with him. Bieniemy was a key part to that (team), but there's so many people that went to the NFL from that team. It comes back to a team effort."

Phillip's loyalty to his family is the same type of loyalty he has to his teammates. And, the same care he has for his team is the same he has for people in general. He would love to play in the NFL, but eventually he hopes to be in law enforcement so he can help others around him.

"You should always go through life understanding that it's not just about you," he said. "Opening the door for a young lady, it's a little thing, but it's something that for me it's big. It shows we care, it shows we have respect. Caring is about respect and in order to get respect, you have to give respect."

Respect earned

Ask players and coaches at CU about Phillip and before they start talking about him, they all do the same thing. They smile.

There's a genuine love and respect for Phillip that isn't easily earned, but it's certainly well deserved at this point.

"We all love the guy," senior guard Gerrad Kough said.

The love and pride others have for Phillip has nothing to do with yards or touchdowns. It's about the passion he's displayed for his team, his family, his state and his university. And, it's about how he's handled his journey to greatness.

"I don't even think that I can really explain how proud of him everybody is, just because of all the stuff he's dealt with and he stays true to himself," Cheri said. "He has a heart of gold, he truly does. He's going to be OK (in life), because he's a great person."

Whether Phillip's time in a CU uniform ends Saturday or in a December bowl game, he won't soon be forgotten.

"It's been a long road, fun journey," he said. "It's been tough, sad, happy - all the emotions. But, overall it helped me grow as a man and helped me see things in different perspectives and I can go into my life with different reasonings, different ways of thinking and different ways of acting and being more patient with people and with myself.

"I never wanted it to be just about me. I just wanted my presence to be known that I'm here for my teammates. What I am is real. I don't just do it for the show. This is who I am."

There may never be another like him.

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33