Jason Phillips is in the TCU weight room, working hard lifting weights.
Phillips, a linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens, hasn't played a down for the Frogs since 2008, but no one would know that by looking at him.
Phillips is wearing a TCU shirt with the number 12 on it, a shirt he permanently borrowed from quarterback Yogi Gallegos in 2007.
It's like Phillips has stepped back three years.
Never miss a local story.
"I still like coming out here because it helps me get in a workout rhythm in the summer," Phillips said. "I've been back here in past summers, but I have a lot more time this year because of the lockout. I'm actually able to get in and really work hard and improve."
With the NFL lockout extending more than four months, many former TCU and current NFL players have been back through Fort Worth for a few days. Jerry Hughes, Daryl Washington, Jimmy Young, Andy Dalton, Colin Jones and Jeremy Kerley have all been on the TCU campus at some point.
For Phillips, though, the TCU facilities are home again. He and former Frogs teammate David Hawthorne, a linebacker with the Seahawks, have worked out together at TCU all summer, alongside all of the current Frogs, who are in voluntary workouts.
"It's a lot of fun, just to see these younger guys in there constantly pushing and competing with each other. They help me stay motivated," Phillips said. "Being around campus and around town, seeing some of my old buddies, is just a lot of fun."
Phillips' and Hawthorne's routines of running in the heat for conditioning and lifting weights haven't changed.
"We come back because it's like home to us, and we feel comfortable here," Hawthorne said. "We credit our success and where we are as NFL players to where we started at TCU with coach [Gary] Patterson. It's a dream for college players to go to the NFL, and it's TCU that made that possible for us."
Phillips and Hawthorne are close friends; they stay in touch throughout each season. The only missing component from their college days is going to class.
"It's great to have someone like that to work out with," Hawthorne said. "We are accountable to each other. When you are working out by yourself, it's easy to just skip a couple days here and there. We motivate each other to get up and get after it."
Much about TCU's program and campus, however, has changed.
When they drive up to the campus before their workouts, they see banners announcing "Rose Bowl Champions" on light poles. Looking out from the end zone weight room, they see the new stadium forming, with cranes making progress each day.
"It makes me a little jealous, to be honest," Phillips said.
"I put playing in a BCS game at the top of my goal list. We never quite got there, but it was awesome to see those young guys get there and win."
When he talks with current players, Phillips tells them to appreciate what they have.
"It's a very rare thing to go to a BCS game, and they will remember that for the rest of their lives," he said. "And the stadium is going to be incredible. It's cool to see it going up when I walk in each day. There will be two scoreboards. I remember having to turn around to see my replay. It's awesome to know that I was a part of what they are able to do now, to know that I helped build this."
Phillips played in four TCU bowl games. The Frogs won each one -- the Houston Bowl, the Texas Bowl and the Poinsettia Bowl twice. Hawthorne, who played from 2003-07, was a part of three of those games.
"It's unbelievable to see what the program has evolved into," Hawthorne said. "We started the tradition, going 10-1 and 11-1 and 10-2, but those guys are going undefeated. Just to look at the players' lounging areas, the luxury boxes and everything, it almost looks like a different school."
Phillips had an apartment in Fort Worth at the start of the summer. When it appeared the lockout would end, he moved out. Now, with more time to spend in his college hometown, he is staying with a friend until the lockout is lifted.
Until then, it's back to school.
Brent Shirley, 817-390-7760