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Centennial High School in Arizona has a rising star on its football team in 2024 ATH Phillip "Phil" Braxton. Standing at 6' and weighing 185 lbs, Braxton's journey in high school football has been filled with determination and hard work. He began playing during his freshman year, although it was a challenging start due to the COVID-19 situation limiting the number of games he could participate in.
During his sophomore year, Braxton faced another setback when he tore his hip flexor, causing him to play on the junior varsity team. However, this fueled his motivation to improve, leading him to dedicate himself to intense workouts, training three to four times every day. His efforts paid off when he entered his junior year, creating a buzz around his name with an impressive performance. Braxton earned first-team all-region honors as a kick returner and defensive back.
Reflecting on his most memorable moments, Braxton recalls returning a 99-yard touchdown against O'Connor High School during his junior year, which turned the tide in their favor after being down 21-0 at halftime. Another special memory comes from his freshman year, where he made his mark in his very first game with an interception and a game-winning deflection. However, the moment that truly touched Braxton's heart was receiving his first college offer. Fulfilling a promise he made to his late grandmother to play college football and be the first in the family to graduate, Braxton was overcome with emotion, shedding tears of joy throughout the day.
When describing his playing style, Braxton identifies himself as a north-south runner with similarities to the dynamic Deebo Samuel. On offense, he showcases his agility and power, while his strengths on defense lie in his press man coverage, ability to catch in traffic, and knack for shedding blocks to make plays.
Braxton's recruitment journey has seen interest from several colleges, with consistent attention from Northern Arizona University (NAU), Navy, Air Force, and Idaho. While location is not a deciding factor, his primary goal is to secure early playing time and potentially enroll early at a university. Despite the slow pace of the recruitment process, Braxton remains grateful for the schools that have shown interest and recognizes the value of the opportunities presented to him.
Balancing academics and athletics has come naturally to Braxton, as he excels in his studies by completing his work in class, allowing him to focus on football outside of school hours. Throughout his football career, Braxton has been fortunate to have the support and guidance of influential individuals. His mentor, Marc Sutton, has been by his side since 2016, providing weekly advice and shaping Braxton into the young man he is today. Additionally, his older brother Percy has played a significant role in his life, acting as a constant source of support both on and off the field. Braxton also recognizes the impact of his former head coach, William Chipley, who believed in him when others doubted his potential. Finally, his 7s coach, Jon Zinger, has been a mentor throughout the recruitment process, offering training opportunities and support.
Braxton has faced various challenges in his football career, one being the late start due to financial constraints preventing him from participating in youth football. However, he persevered and caught up during his first two years of high school ball. Another significant challenge arose during his JV year, where he felt he was dominating the competition but had to continue working hard and proving himself.
As Braxton enters his final high school football season, his goals include winning a state championship and earning recognition as a first-team All-State player. Leaving a lasting legacy as a true champion is his ultimate aim. Looking beyond football, Braxton Looking beyond football, Braxton's aspirations for life after his playing days involve making his family proud and giving back to the sport he loves. He envisions a future as a high school football coach, where he can connect with young players and serve as a mentor, much like those who have influenced him throughout his own journey.
Braxton's passion for football extends beyond personal achievements. He understands the value of teamwork, perseverance, and the impact a sport can have on young athletes' lives. By coaching at the high school level, he hopes to instill those values in future generations, helping them develop both on and off the field.
With his combination of talent, work ethic, and determination, Phillip "Phil" Braxton is poised for continued success in his final high school football season and beyond. Whether he finds his future on the field or guiding others from the sidelines, his dedication and commitment to the game are sure to leave a lasting legacy.
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