Sam Phillips is ending his incredible career at Nebraska as an All-American. But more importantly, the star gymnast is a standard-bearer for LGBTQ+ inclusion, wearing the Pride Flag at his sport’s biggest event.

The Huskers finished fourth over the weekend at the NCAA championships in Columbus, Ohio, with five team members earning All-American honors. Phillips finished seventh on high bar and eighth in the all-around competition, with a jaw-dropping floor routine.

He worked every corner of the mat, dazzling those in attendance.

Prepare to be wowed!

Phillips’ performance Saturday was especially sweet, considering his disappointing outing a couple of weeks ago at the Big Ten Championships. Though the Huskers entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed, the Michigan Wolverines secured their fourth straight crown.

Phillips took accountability for his performance, and stressed he would move forward. “Definitely not happy with my performance at Big Tens and it just wasn’t our day as a team,” he wrote.

“Anyways, it’s chin up, crown on & eyes forward to NCAAs in two weeks because there is still work to be done and so much fire left in the skers! Not giving up till it’s over and we still have so much more to show!!!”

A proud team captain, Phillips lived up to his words. His muscular build and agile movements impressed the judges all weekend long.

Making matters sweeter, Phillips wore the rainbow flag on his jacket the entire time. As the only out gay male athlete at Nebraska, he feels a calling towards advocacy.

“I decided to wear the Pride flag during the duration of NCAA weekend to represent the community and bring Pride into the NCAA environment,” he told Queerty in a direct message. “During the banquet I had the pin on my suit and during the meet I had it on my warm up jacket. It was a way to add a touch of representation and visualization to the Pride community within the NCAA.”

In a Pride Month interview last year, Phillips expanded on his role as an out and visible athletic star.

“It’s so, so important to be a positive influence in this world that currently has lots of intolerance and ignorance producing hateful actions,” he said. “I am the only out male athlete at Nebraska, and it’s lonely and isolating at times. But I think back to what if younger me saw me? How secure and hopeful he would be in himself if he saw an out male athlete being so involved and having a prominent role in all athletics and athletic-related departments.”

Jackson Harrison, an out LGBTQ+ gymnast at Arizona State, replied to Phillips last weekend with a simple note of affection: “love this love you.”

As the home of Ohio State, Columbus holds a special place in Big Ten lore. And Phillips certainly made his time in the capital city count. Last month, he set a career high score in the high bar event against the Buckeyes, as well as a personal high score in the floor exercise.

Fittingly, Ohio State was honoring two LGBTQ+ organizations that night, too: Buckeye Inclusion and Buckeye Spectrum.

In his five years at Nebraska, Phillips has learned sometimes the biggest impact athletes can make happens away from competition. That truth came to him last season, when he was sidelined with an injury.

“I learned I actually like the coaching and supporting side of gymnastics,” he told Queerty. “If I’m being brutally honest, just being inconsistent with competing all around and competing in general due to injuries, I’ve lost a bit of my competitive edge. But I think I’ve gained leadership.”

We would agree with that assessment! Phillips is shining in and out of his uniform. He’s taken full advantage of the NCAA’s NIL policy, which allows athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness—just like the pros. The fashionista is signed to marketing deals with companies such as Adidas and PSD Underwear.

Days before the NCAA championship, he posted an Instagram ad for Stanley, arguably the hottest water-bottle brand in the country right now. The Wall Street Journal recently called Stanley “one of the most-desired womenswear accessories on the planet.”

Phillips told Queerty he views modeling as another form of expression, just like gymnastics.

“I love [modeling]! It’s another form of artistic expression,” he said. “I think it’s beautiful, and a great way to show off yourself and your essence and your body. While doing so, you become comfortable in your skin, and express yourself how you want to. Literally, every picture is different. You can explore and illustrate 1,000 different expressions.”

When we watch Phillips, the top expression on our faces is pure joy. It’s awesome to see an out athlete performing at such a high level, and taking advantage of every opportunity.

His athletic career at Nebraska may be over, but he’s just on the ground floor. With the Olympic trials in June, Phillips is in prime position to represent Team USA.

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