As former head coach Larry Oetting (1977-89) said of the climate of Concordia College in the mid- to late-1980s, “Things were a bit fragile.” Prior to a showdown with Dana College on Oct. 3, 1987, the lights at Bulldog Stadium shut off abruptly, causing a delay of roughly 10 minutes. Such issues were somewhat common for a football program that struggled to afford helmet decals at one point. Said Phil Seevers, “Our football field wasn’t in very good shape. In 1985 it was probably the best field in the conference. By the time I left we had trouble getting the water to turn on.”
Through the struggles that saw enrollment and recruitment numbers wane, Seevers displayed the type of fiery competitive spirit and resilience that helped Concordia overcome. Originally from Blair, Neb., Seevers quarterbacked the 1987 team to a record of 6-4 and was named the 1989 Concordia senior male athlete of the year. He led the ’87 squad to a 25-3 scorching of nationally-ranked Peru State at the Oak Bowl as part of a sterling start to the season. In that contest, Seevers found star wide out Clarence Woods for three of his four touchdown tosses. Until 2013, Seevers owned the program’s single-season total yards record with 2,443 during his senior year (broken by Von Thomas).
A top quarterback in program history by any measure, Seevers is now set to take his place as a member of the Concordia Athletic Hall of Fame (official induction in October), a special group that includes Phil’s father Gary and Uncle John (known by many as “Sid”). “There’s no doubt that Concordia is a Seevers institution,” Phil said in referencing the many family members that have come through 800 North Columbia Avenue. “Concordia is a place we always came to for games on weekends when we were little. I was definitely influenced by the Seevers name in going there.”
Phil played many games with his father in attendance. “I was proud that he went to Concordia,” Gary said. “He was a good player. He would be a great coach, too.” Making use of the exotic veer offense, Phil was in total control as the proverbial coach on the field. There were games where he might throw 40 times and also run 20 times. Known as an intense competitor, Phil only wished that offensive prowess led to more victories. “We could spread the ball around so well,” Phil said. The 42-41 loss to Doane in 1988 backed up that point.
“That was a fun game, but an extremely disappointing game,” Phil said. Not only did Seevers complete 26 of 39 passes and throw for five touchdowns, he also ran for a 61-yard score a minute into the game. Seevers’ final scoring toss of the day, a 15-yard dart to tight end Gerald Homp, with a minute remaining got Concordia within one (42-41). Oetting then made the gutsy decision to go for the win, but the Bulldogs failed to convert the two-point try.
The 1988 team may have finished just 3-6, but the Seevers-to-Woods show justified the price of admission. During that season Seevers led NAIA District 11 with 1,879 passing yards while frequently connecting with his favorite receiver that would wind up in training camp with the New Orleans Saints. Woods, who hailed from St. Louis, Mo., faced consistent double coverages and caught nine passes for 158 yards versus Peru State. He hauled in eight catches for 193 yards and three touchdowns versus Midland. Against Hastings, Woods received a pitch on a fake punt and took it 30 yards before he lateraled to Matt Wullenwaber, who proceeded for 25 yards to pay dirt. Woods also caught a 50-yard touchdown toss from Seevers in that game. A week later Woods plucked six passes for 78 yards and ran for a short touchdown score.
Said Phil’s first cousin Scott Seevers, a teammate, “We didn’t have a lot of weapons in those days, but those were two (Woods and Phil Seevers) pretty good weapons.”
No Concordia quarterback has ever burned opponents with his legs the way that Phil Seevers did. Listed at 5-foot-10, 200 pounds during his playing career, Seevers totaled six rushing touchdowns as a sophomore, then 11 more as a junior and another eight as a senior. Over his final two campaigns he racked up more than 1,000 combined rushing yards despite playing through shoulder tendinitis his junior season. Prior to college, Phil led Blair to a state title and state runner-up finish in legion baseball. He did it all, also competing in basketball, football and track and field. He remained a multi-sport athlete in college, playing baseball in addition to football. Phil wasted little time making an impact on the football field, seeing action as a freshman and then heavy duty as a sophomore before taking over as full-time quarterback as a junior.
From a team perspective, the height of his career may have come that evening when darkness fell on Bulldog Stadium. Still the spotlight found Seevers, who shined brightly and a matchup between two nationally-ranked teams – Concordia and Dana – went to the Bulldogs by a 31-21 score. Suddenly Concordia was 4-0 and ranked No. 12 in the nation. The team had the makings of a potential conference title contender – but the injuries soon hit. “That game just showed how good we were when everyone was healthy,” Phil said.
The hard luck on the injury front was another hit during a tough time, but it didn’t put a damper on Phil’s time at Concordia, where he roomed with cousin Scott for three years. “It was an extremely positive experience, even through the hard times,” Phil said. “That’s what made it even more special. It wasn’t easy and we had to battle together. That’s how you build your lifelong friendships.”
Phil went on to praise Coach Oetting’s leadership, saying, “I don’t think I can describe how lucky I was to play for the coaches I had. Coach Oetting was phenomenal for me at that age. I’m sure I drove him crazy. He was awesome for all of us.”