Former Nebraska/NFL running back Lawrence Phillips was convicted of seven felony charges yesterday and faces up to 25 years in prison, but he's already in jail, serving a 10-year sentence for another crime. How did it come to this?
Of all the cases of wasted talent in football—and there are many—Phillips may have had the most talent to waste. I vividly remember the night It All Changed for him back in 1995, because earlier that day I had watched Phillips torch Michigan State in the home opener in East Lansing. He looked like the best football player on Earth that day, and he might have been, but later that evening he was arrested after throwing his girlfriend down a flight of stairs. Tom Osbourne did not kick him off the team, the Cornhuskers still won the National Championship, and Phillips was a top 10 NFL Draft pick, but that was just the start of the slippery slide of legal trouble that would follow him the rest of his life.
Rams coach Dick Vermeil called him the best running back he ever had—as he was kicking Phillips off his team after multiple arrests. He had numerous assault charges. He played for seven teams in four different leagues. He ran over three kids with a car in 2005. (Earning him the 10-year sentence.) Everywhere he went, he showed flashes of the amazing once-in-a-lifetime running back everyone knew he could be—he won a Grey Cup!—but everywhere he went he got in trouble, burned bridges and was sent packing. On two occasions in 2005, he choked his girlfriend leading to this latest conviction. He is beyond "three strikes" now and could easily get the full 25 years in prison at his sentencing next month.