Miami Dolphins outside linebacker Jaelan Phillips‘ rise to the NFL has been a winding road with twists and turns, but the industry-generated 247Sports Composite’s No. 1 overall — No. 41 all-time — recruit for the Class of 2017 is here. The No. 18 overall pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, the former UCLA Bruins (2017-18) and Miami Hurricanes (2020) edge rusher has made a name for himself after trials and tribulations throughout his college football journey. He opened up this week during an episode of The Fish Tank.
“It just helped my perspective a lot because coming in, the main difference between the league — it wasn’t even the physicality so much,” Phillips said. “It’s like, ‘Yeah, obviously, everybody — the levels come up, like the disparity between the best and the worst. It’s a lot thinner. Everybody’s legit in the league.’ But for me, it was the mental aspect of it. It was coming in, being a first-round draft pick — boom. Immediately, there’s pressure and expectations. It’s like, ‘How are you going to handle those pressure and expectations?’
“And for me, I almost kind of came in a little too arrogant from my experience before, thinking, ‘OK, I’ve handled adversity. I’ll be straight again.’ But then it’s a whole different world because you have the pressure from the coaches, you have the pressure from the teammates, pressure from yourself, family, friends — everybody. And just having to internalize that and deal with it, what I realized is that I had to manage my level of expectations. And ultimately, I just wanted to be proud of myself with the work that I was putting in.”
As a rookie, he finished the 2021 season with 42 tackles, 8 1/2 sacks and one forced fumble. Here is everything the Redlands (Calif.) East Valley product had to say about his story.