November 21, 2017 6:15:54 PM
STARKVILLE -- When Loryn Phillips looks back on it, her husband Josiah has never really been the stereotypical college student. He's never been one to spend his evenings in the bar or otherwise; he's always been at home, serving as someone's caretaker.
Josiah's father, Randy, died when Josiah was 18. Josiah immediately turned into the oldest man in the house that included his mother and most of his 12 siblings; last December, Josiah married Loryn and added her to the crew.
Any day now, he'll do the same for his newborn son.
Mississippi State football's Senior Day comes 6:30 p.m. Thursday (ESPN) when No. 16 MSU (8-3, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) hosts Ole Miss (5-6, 2-5 SEC), doubling as the end of both a wild year and career for Josiah Phillips. His final semester of college has seen him realize two of his biggest dreams: playing football for MSU and starting a family.
"I'm getting the best of both worlds," he said.
It's a far cry from the underclassman that needed his brother's help to get through school.
Josiah Phillips first joined the MSU football program as a homeschooled walk-on with only flag football in his background. His brother, Jonathan -- a former MSU player himself -- saved money while he was in the Army by living below his rank; the difference went straight to pay for everything for Josiah's first two years of school.
Then Josiah earned a scholarship before his junior season. Loryn remembers the day it happened: August 12, 2016. She was just a couple of months removed from finishing her career as a MSU softball player when Josiah called her with the news, tearing up as he did it.
Now that scholarship pays the bills. Josiah and Loryn got married the ensuing December and as a wedding present, one of Josiah's brothers gave them a year of free rent in a house he owns. With that taken care of, the money from Josiah's scholarship is enough to pay the bills and keep food on the table while he gets his degree in industrial technology and finishes his football career. As soon as it's over, he hopes he can get a job locally so he can provide for the family and coach the same flag football team his father coached.
For now, Josiah is kind of caught between the two -- family man and college football player.
It doesn't sound easy, doing what he's done, but no one around him is surprised he's doing it. MSU coach Dan Mullen said Josiah, "has always been a really mature kid within the program."
"He spreads himself pretty thin with taking care of me, taking care of his siblings," Loryn Phillips told The Dispatch. "It hasn't really changed a whole lot. He's done a really good job of balancing stuff. When he's at football his mind is on football, but when he's at home his mind is on me and the baby."
Loryn called Josiah, "a trooper," the same word Josiah used to describe Loryn. For all the credit Loryn is giving Josiah for how he's managing this fall, Josiah says she's made it easier.
"It actually makes me worry less about the game and I guess I enjoy football more, knowing that I could fail but there's still a little boy that loves me and a wife that loves me," Josiah said.
"People say a pregnant woman's hard to deal with, but that hasn't been it with her, she's a tough little girl. She's actually been my rock because in football you have your ups and downs, trying to play and all that, and she's helped me focus on everything from the fourth quarter to playing on special teams. She's helped me just enjoy playing football."
All told, Josiah just wants Loryn to have fun with her pregnancy -- which she said she has, even as she has been on strict bed rest for the last two weeks. (She said she had been cleared to attend Thursday's Egg Bowl if she maintained her bed rest.) It was that desire that forced Loryn's hand in telling Josiah the news.
Loryn had just found out she was pregnant and was trying to concoct a fun way to tell Josiah when they went to the family pasture for a day. With Josiah's former teammate Richie Brown, they took to their own style of fun: tying a trash can lid to the back of a 4-wheeler to essentially create an on-land version of tubing. Naturally, Loryn was hesitant to join given what she just discovered, which unsettled Josiah. She could tell his mood had soured, so to pick him she took him to the orchard at the pasture to break the news.
Josiah spent the rest of the night telling his family at the pasture before driving to several of his brothers' houses to tell them all in person.
Needless to say, as Loryn did, "It's been a fun ride." The ride hits a benchmark chapter Thursday night.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson