"Up until the time I was 14 years old, I was sure that I was going to be a big-league baseball player. But that dream came to a rude awakening when I got cut from my high school baseball team," he says. So instead of the baseball diamond, Phil took to the track. In 1955, he enrolled in the University of Oregon, where he ran track for renowned coach Bill Bowerman.
Phil calls Bill "the greatest track coach that ever lived," but aside from their love of running, they also shared the belief that the existing track shoes were slowing runners down. So Phil began importing better-quality running shoes from Japan, and in 1964, with a handshake and $500 apiece, Phil and Bill launched Blue Ribbon Sports.