Tiger Woods helped kick off friendship between Vikings linemen Harrison Phillips and Dalvin Tomlinson
The trio met at Super Bowl LV in Tampa during a meeting of Stanford alums
Vikings defensive linemen Harrison Phillips and Dalvin Tomlinson have become good friends, and it all started thanks to Tiger Woods.
At Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7, 2021 in Tampa, Fla., the golf legend was in attendance. Woods, who went to Stanford, was invited at the game to meet some former football stars from the school in a suite.
Among the Stanford alums in the suite were Phillips, who played then with Buffalo; John Lynch, a former NFL safety who was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame three days earlier, and safety Michael Thomas, who was then with Houston and is now with Cincinnati. Phillips and Thomas were on hand for Tampa Bay’s 31-9 victory over Kansas City because they had been nominees for the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, and the league had invited all 32 nominees to the game and given them access to the suite.
Tomlinson, an Alabama graduate who was then with the New York Giants and was also a nominee for the award, was in the suite, as well. And when the Stanford alums wanted to take a picture along with Woods, Tomlinson sought to get in on the action.
“I had the Stanford connection, so I was like, ‘We’ve got to do a squad picture because (Stanford coach) David Shaw would love this,’ ” said Phillips, who signed with the Vikings as a free agent in March after playing his first four seasons with the Bills. “So I had the Stanford guys get together for a photo and Dalvin was standing right there, and saying, ‘I want to get one, too.’ So Dalvin popped right in. … So that’s the first time I met Dalvin.”
Also jumping into the photo was Baltimore defensive end Calais Campbell, who played in college at Miami and was also a nominee for the Man of the Year Award.
“I was talking to Calais about some charity stuff, and we were just right there at the right time,” said Tomlinson, entering his second season with the Vikings after four years with the Giants. “We were just all talking to Tiger Woods, and I introduced myself and we all took a picture together.”
After Woods departed, Phillips and Tomlinson began to talk with each other. Their stories differ about that.
“I went up to Dalvin and introduced myself and said, ‘Hey, man. I’m a big fan. What’s going on? I respect your game,’ ” Phillips said. “And I think he was like, ‘Oh, cool, who are you?’ I think he big-timed me the first time we met.”
Tomlinson disagrees with that account.
“I knew he was in Buffalo and everything, and I had watched some film on him and I saw that he was a great player,” Tomlinson said. “He says I didn’t know who he was. But I knew who he was. We just hadn’t met in person.”
As it turned out, the conversation between the two went well. They learned how much they have in common.
“Both of us are three-time (high school) state wrestling champions,’’ said Phillips, who is from Omaha, Neb., while Tomlinson is from McDonough, Ga. “Both of us were 4.0 students. Both of us have had multiple, double ACL surgeries, both of us are engaged to high school girlfriends.”
And there’s more.
“The more and more we talked, it was like, ‘Oh, I love the color gold (also). That’s my favorite color,’ ” Phillips said. Then it was, ‘Oh, I love pizza (also).’ There’s just so many things.”
This time, Tomlinson doesn’t disagree with Phillips.
“I remember talking to him about our life stories and there were so many similarities, it was crazy.” he said.
Flash forward to April and Phillips, 26, and Tomlinson, 28, were reunited when both reported for spring drills at the TCO Performance Center. They were pleased to see they had been assigned lockers next to one another.
“We introduced ourselves again because it had been awhile and everything, and that just pretty much kicked up the friendship there,” Tomlinson said. “We’re super cool. We’re close.”
When the Vikings open the season Sunday against Green Bay at U.S. Bank Stadium, the two will be alongside each other on the line. Phillips is the starting nose tackle and Tomlinson a starting defensive end as Minnesota has moved to a 3-4 defense under new coordinator Ed Donatell.
The two talk football and watch film together. Tomlinson has previous experience in the 3-4 with the Giants, so he’s been giving Phillips, who played in a 4-3 with the Bills, pointers.
“I’ve learned a lot from him,” Phillips said. “I ask him how to play blocks, but we have a good balance back and forth. He likes the way I pick apart offenses, and he kind of asks me how I see things.”
The two have socialized together and are planning for their respective fiancés to meet soon. Both are planning to be married next year — Phillips in Minnesota and Tomlinson in Hawaii — and they plan to attend each other’s weddings.
The two talk to each other often about their charity work. Phillips has a foundation, Harrison’s Playmakers, which supports children and young adults with developmental differences and special needs. Tomlinson, whose father died when he was 5 and mother died when he was 17, does work with Good Grief and Kate’s Club, charities that help those who have lost loved ones.
“Those guys have come together as brothers,” Vikings edge rusher D.J. Wonnum said. “They have a lot in common. You just see it every day.”
And they first got together thanks to Woods. Phillips had talked to Woods several previous times at Stanford functions, but Tomlinson met him for the first time at that Super Bowl. While Tomlinson said he initially was “star struck” talking to the golf legend, he said it was a big thrill.
But what Tomlinson remembers most now about that day is something else.
“That’s how I met H.P.,” he said. “It’s pretty crazy.”
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