Loyola’s Phil Later finds niche behind camera

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WILMETTE — Although he is at every practice and every game, you won’t find Phil Later’s name next to a number and position on Loyola’s football roster.

But the junior is as much a part of the team as any running back or linebacker. Later is in his second season as Loyola’s student videographer, which is an after-school job during the fall.

“I love everything about it,” Later said. “To the players, I’m the film guy, but I think they all appreciate the work I do.”

Along with the team’s director of operations, EJ Orr, Later is tasked with videotaping practices and games and transferring the footage to computer software that enables coaches and players to watch it on desktops, laptops or mobile devices.

“Phil and EJ do a great job for us,” Loyola coach John Holecek said. “Without film, we’d be lost. Watching the kids, especially in practice, is extremely important. That’s where we can make the improvements.”

On game days, Later and Orr also make sure the coaches’ headsets are functioning prior to kickoff.

“That’s probably the biggest thing we do,” Orr said of game-day duties. “Our coaches and players are smart, so they see things during the game that require quick adjustments. The coaches [in the press box] have to be able to communicate with the coaches and players on the field.

“If [the headsets] aren’t working, things go south pretty quickly.”

Once the game starts, Later operates the on-field camera. If the game is at home, that means he climbs up more than 20 feet to his spot in the scaffold that resides in the south end zone.

“It’s where the low man starts off, but it’s like home to me,” he said.

•••

Later, a Wilmette resident, played football until high school. The sport outgrew him, he said.

“I wasn’t that tall or that strong,” Later said. “I wanted to find out what else I could do.”

Wanting to participate in a fall sport as a freshman at Loyola, Later tried out for the golf team and got cut. “Crushed” about it, according to his father, Jeff Later, Phil Later joined the football team as a videographer during his sophomore year.

Phil Later took golf lessons with the intention of trying out as a junior. Over the summer, his handicap reached single digits, giving him a legitimate shot at making the team. Later went as far as signing up for the golf tryout in August, but he ultimately chose to remain with the football team.

“It was a tough decision between golf and football, but he doesn’t regret it,” Jeff Later said. “It was cool he was in demand. He loves golf, but he loves what he’s doing with the football team.

“He lives for the games, the weekends in the fall.”

•••

A 2007 graduate of Loyola, Orr once was in Phil Later’s position. Orr played football for three seasons before turning to off-field duties as a senior, the same year John Holecek became the head coach of the Ramblers.

After a conversation with Holecek, Orr said he decided to try his hand at videography and pioneered a position in the program.

“Before John took over, there wasn’t much video,” Orr said. “I had no experience at it, but I learned on the fly.”

When Orr went to John Carroll University, he passed the camera to Charlie Brault, who later handed off the job to James LeClercq. Phil Later assumed the role once LeClercq graduated in 2013.

“We threw Phil into the fire,” said Orr, who graduated college in 2011 and returned to Loyola to assist the football program. “He’s a huge asset to the team.”

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