Jerry Philp is one of the finest all-around athletes to ever hail from Windsor or Essex County. He enjoyed a seven-year career as a two-way player in the Canadian Football League after being courted by Major League Baseball and National Football League clubs. Later, as head coach of the Assumption Purple Raiders in the 1970s and ’80s, Philp was the architect and orchestrator of one of the great dynasties in the history of Windsor and Essex County high school football.
Philp was born in Windsor and raised in the Detroit area. As a youth, he regularly spent summers with his family in Colchester. During the school year, Philp attended Detroit Northern High School, where he lettered in football, basketball, and track and field. A natural all-around athlete, Philp earned All-City honours in basketball, was a noted high jumper in track and field, and was considered one of the Detroit area’s best young baseball prospects.
After graduation, Philp accepted a basketball scholarship from Fullerton College in California but continued to excel as a multi-sport athlete. He led the California Junior College Baseball League with a hefty .446 batting average in his first year of play while earning First Team and Second Team All-Conference honours in baseball and basketball, respectively.
Eventually, Philp’s versatility attracted the various coaching staffs at Florida State University, which offered him a full athletic scholarship. Philp transferred to the Tallahassee school, where he would continue to stand out. This time, Philp concentrated on baseball and football and became a two-year starter on both teams. In baseball, he batted .351 and helped lead FSU to the College World Series. In football, he played on both sides of the ball for the Seminoles and attracted interest from the NFL’s Washington Redskins.
After graduating from FSU, Philp also fielded interest from the Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Braves, which both offered him Major League Baseball contracts. Ultimately, Philp decided to return to Canada to play football for the Toronto Argonauts. He enjoyed a distinguished six-year career with the Argos and one additional season in the CFL with the Montreal Alouettes. Throughout, he played on both sides of the ball and on special teams.
During his time with the Argos, Philp began teaching and coaching at De La Salle College in Toronto. He led the school’s football and basketball teams to several Toronto City Championships and a number of notable victories over perennial area powerhouses like St. Michael’s College.
In 1967, while visiting extended family in the Windsor area, Philp happened to drive by Assumption High School. Figuring that he had nothing to lose, he dropped by the school to see if they were hiring. As it happened, Father Sheedy, the school’s principal at the time, was a St. Michael’s alumnus and was well aware of the De La Salle coach whose teams were regularly beating his old school. It was a fateful visit for both Philp and countless future Purple Raiders athletes.
Philp went on to coach 19 years of football at Assumption, compiling an incredible 157-31 record while leading the Purple Raiders to nine City Championship Games and six titles, including four consecutive championships from 1970 to ’73. Today, many still rank Philp’s Assumption teams among the best in the history of Windsor-Essex high school football. Ultimately, Philp merits recognition in the Windsor/Essex County Sports Hall of Fame as both an athlete and a coach.