Lawrence Phillips

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Lawrence Phillips mugshot.jpg

Lawrence Lamond Phillips (May 12, 1975 - January 13, 2016) was a professional NFL running back.

Early life and career

Lawrence Phillips was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, but he grew up in foster homes in California. In high school, he was a star running back and outside linebacker; eventually catching attention from the University of Nebraska.

Soon after the 1994-95 season, after Nebraska had won the national championship, Phillips pled not guilty to a vandalism and assault charge from March 1994. During the 1995 season, Phillips was arrested for assaulting his ex-girlfriend, Kate McEwen, a basketball player for the Nebraska women's team and was subsequently suspended by head coach Tom Osborne. Osborne walked out on a press conference when asked: "If one of your players had roughed up a member of your family and had dragged her down a flight of steps, would you have reinstated that player to the team?"

The university proposed that any student convicted of a violent crime would no longer play for the college football team. Osborne defended the decision, saying that abandoning Phillips might do more harm than good, stating the best way to help Phillips was within the structured environment of the football program.

Phillips was later reinstated in time for a game against Iowa State, though freshman Ahman Green continued to start for the Cornhuskers. At the 1995-96 Fiesta Bowl, Phillips rushed for 165 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries and caught another touchdown for 16 yards, as the Cornhuskers defeated the Florida Gators in the national championship, 62-24.

Phillips' performance boosted his draft stock, so he declared for the 1996 NFL Draft as an underclassman. He was drafted 6th by the St. Louis Rams, who traded away their star running back, Jerome Bettis, to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Phillips then signed a three-year, $5.625 million contract.

In his two seasons with the Rams, Phillips played 25 games (starting 20), rushed for 1,265 yards and 12 touchdowns, and spent 23 days in jail. In November 1997, the Rams ended Phillips' contract. Later that season, he signed with the Miami Dolphins, playing two games and rushing for 44 yards. The Dolphins released him after he pleaded no contest to sexual assault at a nightclub.

After sitting out the 1998 season, Lawrence Phillips decided to make a comeback. He signed with the Barcelona Dragons, setting league records by rushing for 1,021 yards and 14 touchdowns. His performance caught the attention of the San Francisco 49ers, who signed him in the fall of 1999. Although fellow free agent Charlie Garner beat him out as the starting running back, Phillips became the 49ers' main kick returner.

While Phillips tried to stay out of trouble off the field, the 49ers were suspect of his on-field performance. He was so bad at pass blocking that he rarely appeared on passing downs. This was proven during a Monday Night Football game against the Arizona Cardinals when he missed a block against star cornerback Aeneas Williams. Williams knocked the 49ers' star quarterback, Steve Young, out with a career-ending concussion.

In November 1999, San Francisco had had enough of Phillips, so they cut him from the team after the running back skipped a few practices.

In 2001, Phillips signed with the Florida Bobcats of the Arena Football League. He never played in the AFL because he went AWOL without telling the coach.

Phillips signed with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League for the 2002 season. While he rushed for over 1,000 yards that season and made the CFL Eastern All-Star Team, the Alouettes seriously questioned his work ethic. On May 1, 2003; the Montreal Alouettes released Phillips for not meeting the team's behavioral code of conduct. It later emerged that he had once again been charged with sexual assault.

Phillips later latched onto the Calgary Stampeders, but he was released after arguing with his head coach.

Post-football career

August 2005 was a very bad month for Lawrence Lamond Phillips. On the 2nd, he slapped his girlfriend, grabbed her by her hair and choked her unconscious. The woman testified that she woke up on the floor. Two weeks later, Phillips slapped and choked his girlfriend again, then he threw her into a bathtub. On the 21st, Phillips stole a car and drove into three teenagers after an argument during a pick-up football game; the teenagers survived. He was arrested later that day and charged with assault with a deadly weapon, assault with great bodily injury, false imprisonment, making a criminal threat, domestic abuse, auto theft, and attempted murder.

In August 2009, Phillips pleaded guilty to all the charges and was sentenced to 31 years in prison.

On April 12, 2015; Phillips was accused of murdering his cellmate Damion Soward, who was serving an 82-to-life sentence for first-degree murder. In August 2015, Phillips was officially charged with murdering Soward; if he was convicted of strangling Soward, Phillips would have faced 25 years to life.

Phillips was found unresponsive in his cell by correctional officers around midnight on January 12, 2016, and pronounced dead at 1:30 am on January 13, 2016. His death was ruled suicide by hanging and his family then donated his brain to be examined for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) at Boston University.