David Moll/Calgary Dinos
Two apples have fallen, and as they say, not very far from the tree.
But Jalen and Tyson Philpot won’t remain in the shadow of that tree for very long. They’re too fast for that, even if that tree was once a star CFL running back.
The speedster twins, standout receivers for the University of Calgary Dinos, will be taking their sibling rivalry pro this year, both of them ranked in the top five of the CFL Scouting Bureau’s list of this spring’s draft prospects.
Jalen is number two. Tyson is number five. How it shakes out on draft day is anyone’s guess, but it seems a pretty sure bet the two of them go top ten, barring something unforeseen.
One thing is for certain. The 21-year-olds have risen to top prospect status together, playing on the same teams, primarily, since they were kids, pushing, prodding and poking each other, spurring each other on to greater heights. Their father, Cory, a star CFL running back during the 1990s, and a coach on the British Columbia football scene since the early 2000s, has been a big part of that dynamic every step of the way.
“We just expect each other to get things done,” said Tyson, during a conference call that included his brother as well as another top ten prospect, Western Mustangs’ defensive lineman Deionte Knight.
Their father weighed in during a phone conversation the day before.
“It just works where they they battle each other and they push each other,” said Cory.
Sometimes, that pushing of each other can take on an absurd harmony. Can it be that twins actually share the Dinos’ record for longest pass reception in team history? Can those two receptions be 107 yards?
Yes, it is true. Tyson scored on a 107-yard pass and run combo during rookie year. This past season, Jalen recorded his own 107-yard reception, but moans that it ought to have been a record-breaking 109-yard touchdown. He was caught, though, at the two.
“He does have me, I guess,” concedes Jalen. “Because he did score.”
Jalen Philpot was named a U SPORTS First Team All-Canadian for the second consecutive year in 2021, gathering in 35 receptions for 715 yards (20.4 yards per reception) and 3 touchdowns. During his U SPORTS career he tallied 113 catches for 1,889 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Tyson had a superb year in 2021, and that’s why he was able to author such an impressive, ten-rung jump in the prospect rankings. He caught 41 passes for 746 yards with 9 touchdown receptions, being named a first team All-Canadian and the Canada West Player of the Year.
“I’ve always had Jalen a little bit by the speed,” Tyson said with a grin, needling the brother who was sitting beside him during the Zoom call. Jalen doesn’t fight back on that one, so we’ll have to assume it’s correct. That speed, Tyson lightheartedly maintains, is why he ended up with his father’s old number 6 on his jersey while in Calgary.
But, he says as a follow up, “I’m open to making a number for myself in the league.”
Cory Philpot was a terror of a CFL running back. Dodgy and fast, he had nitro glycerine in the first steps he’d take after being handed the ball. In seven seasons (five with BC and two with Winnipeg) he racked up more than 5,200 rushing yards, adding almost 1,900 more in pass receptions. He strung together three straight 1,000 yard rushing seasons with the Lions between 1994 and 1996, including 1,451 yards (7.2 yards per carry) in the first of those three seasons. He’s a Grey Cup Champion (1994) and was named a CFL All-Star in 1995.
So, even if they are not playing the same position that papa did (although Cory says that Jalen was “an unreal running back” before converting to receiver in Calgary), the twins do have something to live up to. And they seem to have the confidence to make their own way, while feeling gratitude for everything their father has done for them.
“It’s awesome that our dad had such a great career in the CFL,” said Jalen, “and was able to do the things that he was able to do. And I think that’s just really helped us get to where we’re at right now.”
“We love our dad and are very thankful for what he’s been able to do for us,” echoed Tyson.
“But I think like Jalen said it was very, very useful in the beginning, just having that name and and allowing that to help us in football. But definitely, now it’s time for us to make our own name for ourselves and I’m very confident we’re both going to be able to do that for sure.”
Comparables? Plenty, said dad, looking at his own talents and then those of his boys. Differences? While Cory was noted for his explosive start-up acceleration, he says his sons are slower off the mark, but faster, overall, than he was. “After their first five or six steps,” he said, “that’s where their speed kicks in.”
After his playing career was over, Cory Philpot settled in British Columbia’s lower mainland, putting down roots in Surrey, where Jalen and Tyson grew up. While tutoring his sons in the finer points of the game, Philpot showed other kids the way as well, and has been coaching for nearly twenty years. “Ever since I can remember, Tyson and I have been on the football field,” said Jalen.
Their father used to rough house a little with the boys when they were four-years-old, joking that they couldn’t fend off the ol’ man’s straight-arm. But they showed great promise, he said, when he got them involved in flag football at the age of six. He knew there was something there.
“It just came to them as an athlete,” Philpot said. “They were just gifted.”
And they were together wherever they played, at least up until now. Will that continue into the world of pro football? Their father says “we’ve heard some rumours” that at least one team is trying to strategize a way to get both Philpots on the roster, so let that add a layer of intrigue to draft conversations over the next few months.
As far as Jaylen and Tyson are concerned, it’d be nice to continue being teammates but it is in no way an imperative.
“There’s a little bit of a part of each of us that wants to kind of go our separate ways,” said Jalen, “and kind of start to make a name for one another. And I would love to look across the field and see Tyson there and be like, ‘I’m gonna outwork you this game’ and just kind of have that friendly rivalry game.”
That would be one way to have not one but two Philpots wearing dad’s old number 6.
Hardly matters, though, with the kids craving to make names for themselves. Whatever the circumstance, whatever the numbers, the elder Philpot will be satisfied.
“Oh, I’m very proud,” said Cory. We’ve got two kids that actually have done something that I’ve done in my life and now they’re able to go to the same thing themselves.”
“It’s a great feeling.”
COACH DAD IS WORKING ON A PRETTY GOOD RESUME
Cory Philpot capped a very good season of coaching, in December, when his Langley Rams beat the London Beefeaters in the Canadian Bowl by a score of 37 – nothing.
“That was a great, great, success, a bunch of great players we put together to do some great things,” said Philpot of a team that made the Rams champions of the Canadian Junior Football League for the first time in the franchise’s 73-year history.
In addition to coaching the Rams, Philpot is the president of All Star Youth Sports, and organization that brings together athletes from both sides of the U.S./Canada border for competitions. As well, he serves as Operations Manager for the British Columbia Provincial Football Association.
With years of junior coaching under his belt, and now a big win to his credit, you might wonder if Philpot has designs on a return to the CFL as part of a pro coaching staff.
“I think down the road in the next year or two that’s a possibility,” said Philpot. “I see myself in the CFL, or maybe even at a university. I’ve had some university offers, but I’m just not ready right now. Maybe next year.”