To some people, Leslie Phillips is best known as a tenure-track professor who is passionate about health and fitness and fashion.
To others, she's the dark-haired woman with the bullhorn at the pre-game Cat Walk that she helped create, the wife of University of Kentucky coach Joker Phillips and the "first lady" of UK football.
"She has this phrase she always uses," said Liz Knapp, Phillips' friend since graduate school. "She always says she's 'covered over.'"
That is, she is managing a full load as an assistant professor at Georgetown College while adjusting to her new role as a high-profile supporter and chief cheerleader for the extended family that is UK football.
Never miss a local story.
"Her biggest challenge is time management," Knapp said. Leslie Phillips has a lot to do and has set hard standards for herself. "But the thing about Leslie is that she is really good with details."
The details include the problems of feeding the entire Kentucky football squad at an annual dinner, then getting the guys, who tended to eat and run, to stick around and mingle.
"Caterers are my friends," Phillips said, solving the first problem.
The solution for the second problem? Creating a corn hole tournament, finding 20 corn hole sets, getting all her neighbors to agree that, just for one day, they'll close the street so the boys can play.
Phillips downplays her role with the team before describing the need to open her home for recruiting dinners with potential players and brunches with their families. She even has shared with the players her passion for yoga.
"She's going to be just fine," Karen Brooks, wife of former head coach Rich Brooks, said. "She's so passionate about UK, about her husband and about football."
Plus, Brooks said, "She's been in this game a long time."
It would have been hard to imagine such a juggling act back when Phillips met her husband at her on-campus job, checking IDs at the Seaton Center. They were freshmen.
"We dated for years and years and years," she said. That would be 16 years to be exact, before they married in 1998. The timing was always off. He was ready when she wasn't. She was ready when he wasn't. But there was never much of a question that they would be together — somewhere.
She knew that as he started his coaching career, "the chance that we wouldn't move would be slim to none."
As it turned out, the couple went from Lexington to Bloomington, Minn.; to South Bend, Ind.; and Columbia, S.C., before landing back in Kentucky.
All the while, she was trying to continue her graduate work and collect information for a dissertation. She ultimately earned a doctorate.
"For all the glamour that comes with being a head coach's wife in the SEC, there are a lot of years that were less than that," she said.
You "kind of make a life for yourself," she said.
Having been around college football for more than 20 years, she has many role models for being a coach's wife. They are as varied as the women themselves. In particular, she said, she was inspired by Carolyn Curry, wife of former Kentucky head coach Bill Curry, who earned her doctorate while her husband worked his way through the coaching ranks.
She also said that she finds comfort in knowing that Karen Brooks is always available for advice. One important tip from Brooks: Don't listen to talk radio or read the newspapers after a loss.
Of the first move, to Minnesota, Phillips said, "I just honestly didn't know how I was going to handle it."
But she did move north, and she took up cross-country skiing. And she found a way to adjust as they moved from place to place, eventually becoming entranced with yoga, which became the final subject of her dissertation.
When it came time to move again, she said, somehow she was always ready. Still, coming back to Kentucky was coming home for the graduate of Henry Clay High School. And it gave her an opportunity to set down career roots in a way she hadn't done before.
"I can't see myself teaching anything other than college," said Phillips, who is in the kinesiology department. "I just love interacting with young people."
Her husband has managed to come speak to her classes each year. "He tries to talk them out of coaching," she said.
Still, she calls the day in 2008, when Joker Phillips was named coach in waiting, "one of the most emotional days of my life."
She was a lifelong UK fan — she especially enjoyed going to games with her father and grandfather — and her husband had just received the job he had dreamed about for decades.
"It was so surreal for him to be coaching at his alma mater," she said.
They were supposed to go out to celebrate, but Joker had to take to the road immediately for a recruiting trip.
"Our lifestyle is so busy, we haven't had time to celebrate," she said.
Karen Brooks said that's not likely to change. One big difference between being the wife of an assistant coach and the wife of the head coach is how much time the job consumes. Leslie Phillips, though, might be in a better position to handle it than some wives because of her career, Karen Brooks said.
Still, it's a high-wire, high-profile juggling act. The Phillipses make it a priority to work out together several days a week. When Joker Phillips is not on the road or in the office, they share workday tales like any couple. One perk of being the head coach's wife is a spot on the team plane for away games, which has her traveling more this year while keeping up with her classes and taking care of home.
All in all, she is happily, busily covered over.