||This article may require copy editing for the repeated editorial comments, in particular: many paragraph intros. (June 2013)|
No. 1, 11, 21, 33
|Running back/return specialist|
|Date of birth:May 12, 1975|
|Place of birth: Little Rock, Arkansas|
|NFL Draft: 1996 / Round: 1 / Pick: 6|
|Debuted in 1996 for the St. Louis Rams|
|Last played in 2003 for the Calgary Stampeders|
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics as of 1999
|Stats at pro-football-reference.com|
|Stats at DatabaseFootball.com|
Lawrence Lamond Phillips (born May 12, 1975) is a former professional American football and Canadian football running back. Phillips's trouble with the law and inability to produce in the NFL have led many critics to label him as a bust.
Early life and career
Phillips was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, but by his teen years had made his way to Southern California, spending most of them in a foster home. He attended West Covina High School in West Covina, California for his freshman and sophomore years. He was a varsity starter both on offense, running back and defense, outside linebacker as a sophomore. He attended Baldwin Park High School in Baldwin Park, California for his junior and senior years, winning back-to-back CIF Championships. His sterling numbers attracted the attention of the University of Nebraska.
In 1993, his freshman year at Nebraska, Phillips gradually worked his way up the depth chart. He came off the bench to rush for 137 yards and a touchdown in the Huskers' 14-13 win at Pac-10 champion UCLA. In the second half of the 1994 Orange Bowl against Florida State, Phillips again came off the bench and sparked the Huskers' ground game, carrying 13 times for 64 of the Huskers 183 rushing yards against a formidable Seminole defense. All but one of Phillips's carries came in the fourth quarter, and he also scored on a 12-yard touchdown run. The game established him as the primary running back in the Nebraska offense.
By his sophomore year, Phillips became the focal point of the offense because of injuries to quarterbacks Tommie Frazier and Brook Berringer. Phillips tied a school record by rushing for 100 yards or more in 11 straight games in 1994 despite frequently playing against eight- or nine-man defensive fronts and fighting a thumb injury. Phillips's performance in the Orange Bowl was key to Nebraska's securing its undefeated season and national championship in 1994. Against the Miami Hurricanes, who had the top-rated defense in college football that year (with future NFL Pro Bowlers Warren Sapp and Ray Lewis), Phillips had 96 yards on 19 carries, including a 25-yard run that was the longest rushing play the Hurricanes had allowed all season. During the regular season, Phillips ran for 1,722 yards, still a Nebraska record for a sophomore.
The following year, Phillips became an early front-runner for the Heisman Trophy. During the Huskers' win over Michigan State in their second game of the season, Phillips had 206 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns on 22 carries. After two games on the season, he was averaging more than 11 yards per carry and had scored six touchdowns. After the team had returned from East Lansing, Michigan, Phillips was arrested for assaulting his ex-girlfriend, Kate McEwen, a basketball player for the Nebraska women's team. Phillips was subsequently suspended from the Husker football team by head coach Tom Osborne. The case became a source of controversy and media attention, with perceptions arising that Osborne was coddling a star player by not kicking Phillips off the team permanently. Osborne defended the decision, saying that abandoning Phillips might do more harm than good. In Osborne's view, the best way to help Phillips was within the structured environment of the football program. Osborne reinstated Phillips for the Iowa State game, although touted freshman Ahman Green continued to start. Phillips also contributed against Kansas and Oklahoma.
Osborne, despite pressure from the national media, named Phillips the starter for the Fiesta Bowl, which pitted No. 1 Nebraska against No. 2 Florida for the national championship. In the game, Phillips rushed for 165 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries and also scored a touchdown on a 16-yard reception in the Cornhuskers' 62-24 victory. The performance boosted Phillips's draft stock. With Osborne's encouragement, he decided to turn pro a year early.
Notes - Statistics from the wikitable include bowl game performances.
Professional football career
St. Louis Rams
With his strong performance, Phillips was drafted sixth overall in the 1996 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams despite his considerable character issues; several teams with higher picks let it be known that they passed on him due to his off-the-field troubles. He was widely expected to be selected by the new Baltimore Ravens with the fourth pick to fill their vacant running back position. However, they decided to select the best available player regardless of position and selected future eleven time pro-bowler Jonathan Ogden. During the draft, ESPN analyst Joe Theisman stated in regard to Phillips: "Everybody's called him the best player in the draft." The Rams thought so highly of Phillips that on the same day of the draft, they traded his predecessor, Jerome Bettis, to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
On July 29, 1996, Phillips signed a three-year $5.625 million contract. He received no signing bonus but his salaries were $1.5 million in 1996, $1.875 million in 1997 and $2.25 million in 1998. Also, he had a chance to receive some guaranteed money in the future if he met certain conditions. The off-field troubles that plagued him at Nebraska resurfaced in St. Louis; in less than two years with the Rams, he spent 23 days in jail.
In 1996 Phillips played 15 games with 11 starts. He carried the ball 193 times for 632 yards for 4 touchdowns. In 1997, Phillips surpassed his entire 1996 total in only 10 games and nine starts, rushing for 634 yards. However, on November 20, the Rams lost patience with him and released him. According to Rams team officials, coach Dick Vermeil had told Phillips that he was being demoted to second string due to his inconsistent performance (even though he was on pace for a 1,000-yard season) and inability to stay out of trouble. Phillips stormed out of the Rams' facility, and missed that day's meeting and practice. A teary-eyed Vermeil at the time called Phillips potentially the best running back he had ever coached.
The decision to unload Bettis to make room for Phillips would haunt the Rams for several years; while Bettis went on to become one of the cornerstones of the Steelers franchise for the next decade, the Rams would not have a true feature back until Marshall Faulk's arrival in 1999.
Phillips then moved on to the Miami Dolphins for two games, running for only 44 yards on 18 carries for a 2.4 yard-per-carry average. The Dolphins released him after he pleaded no contest to assaulting a woman in a Plantation, Florida nightclub.
Phillips missed the 1998 season before attempting a comeback in 1999; he set NFL Europe offensive records with the Barcelona Dragons (1,021 yards and 14 TDs) and attracted interest from several NFL teams.
San Francisco 49ers
Phillips returned stateside with the San Francisco 49ers in the Fall of 1999. The 49ers interviewed him several times before seemingly being assured he'd put his past difficulties behind him, though general manager Bill Walsh told him that the 49ers wouldn't hesitate to cut him if he stepped out of line. He was in contention for the starting job before pulling a hamstring in training camp. Additionally, his blocking left much to be desired. He was beaten out for the starting slot by Charlie Garner. He did, however, become the 49ers' primary kick returner.
Although Phillips stayed out of trouble off the field, his on-field performance was of greater concern to the 49ers. His blocking skills were so suspect that he was almost never in the game on passing downs. Their concerns were validated during a Monday Night Football game against the Arizona Cardinals, when cornerback Aeneas Williams rushed in on a blitz and Phillips failed to pick it up. Williams ended up knocking Steve Young unconscious on the play with a hard, but clean, hit. Young suffered what would prove to be a career-ending concussion; he didn't play again for the rest of the season and was all but forced to retire. In the same game, Phillips ran for a 68-yard touchdown to put the game away 24-10, outrunning Williams to the end zone. Nonetheless, his missed block on Williams led the 49ers to question his work ethic.
By November, the 49ers had lost patience with Phillips. According to coach Steve Mariucci, Phillips had actually begun losing interest early in the season, to the point that he was finding "reasons and ways why he shouldn't practice." However, the situation came to a head in the run-up to the 49ers' game against the New Orleans Saints. Phillips refused to practice at all on November 10 and November 12, and openly mocked coaching directives. Mariucci called a meeting with his staff, at which Phillips' position coach, Tom Rathman (coincidentally, a fellow Cornhusker), told Mariucci that he was at his wit's end with Phillips. Rathman even threatened to stay in San Francisco if Phillips made the trip. That night, the 49ers handed Phillips a three-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team.
Walsh said soon after Phillips was suspended that he could not envision Phillips playing another down for the 49ers. On November 16, Mariucci announced that the 49ers would cut ties with Phillips at the first opportunity. In making the announcement, Mariucci said that the only reason the 49ers didn't release Phillips right away was that his entire signing bonus would have counted against the team's salary cap for 1999, thus tying up nearly all of their cap room. Finally, on November 23, the 49ers waived him.
AFL and CFL
Phillips then moved on to the Canadian Football League. He had some difficulty getting a Canadian work visa due to his criminal record, but was eventually cleared to join the Montreal Alouettes. He showed signs of his old form, notching 1,022 yards, 13 touchdowns and a spot on the CFL Eastern All-Star Team while helping lead them to the 90th Grey Cup. However, he was not exactly a model citizen; he walked out on the team at least once during the season and his agent severed ties with him twice. He briefly held out of training camp before the 2003 season due to a salary dispute. On May 1, shortly after his return, the Alouettes released him for not meeting the team's "minimum behavioural standards." It later emerged that he'd been charged with sexual assault. Phillips signed with the Calgary Stampeders (rushing for 486 yards on 107 carries and 1 TD), but was again released for arguing with head coach Jim Barker.
On August 21, 2005, Phillips was arrested for assault after allegedly driving a car into three teenagers, following a dispute with the teens during a pick-up football game in Los Angeles, California. At the time of the arrest, Phillips was wanted by the San Diego, California, police in connection with two alleged domestic abuse incidents involving a former girlfriend, who claimed that Phillips choked her to the point of unconsciousness during one of the incidents. In addition, the Los Angeles Police Department was seeking Phillips in connection with yet another, separate domestic abuse allegation that had occurred previously in Los Angeles.
In March, 2006, the Associated Press reported that Phillips had been ordered to stand trial on felony assault with a deadly weapon charges stemming from the August 21, 2005, incident. The assigned judge dismissed two counts of child abuse and one count of leaving the scene of an accident, but continued the trial on the remaining charges.
On October 10, 2006, Phillips, was found guilty of seven counts of assault with a deadly weapon. On October 3, 2008, Phillips was sentenced to 10 years in a California state prison. While serving that sentence, Philips was convicted in August 2009 for the assault on his then-girlfriend on seven counts, including assault with great bodily injury; false imprisonment; making a criminal threat; and auto theft. For the latter conviction, Phillips faced 25 years in prison when he was sentenced in November 2009.
On December 18, 2009, Phillips was sentenced to 25 years in prison on the 2009 convictions, to run consecutive to the 2008 sentence (which was reduced to just under 7 years), for a term of more than 31 years. Phillips, California Department of Corrections# G31982, was admitted to the CDCR on October 16, 2008. Currently[when?], Phillips is incarcerated at Kern Valley State Prison. Under California law, since his crimes harmed other persons he must serve at least 85 percent of his sentence before being eligible for time off with good behavior. He will not be eligible for release until he serves 26 years—when he will be 57 years old.
- ESPN - Phillips couldn't outrun off-the-field troubles - NFL
- (6-29-1996)"Phillips Agrees To Deal With Rams" Retrieved September 10, 2010.
- 49ers suspend Lawrence Phillips. Associated Press via Augusta Chronicle, 1999-11-13.
- Freeman, Mike. Phillips Let Go After Troubling Signs. New York Times, 1997-11-21.
- Swan, Gary. 49ers Notebook: Phillips release a cap concern. San Francisco Chronicle, 1999-11-16.
- 49ers Suspend Phillips and Plan to Waive Him. New York Times, 1999-11-16.
- Bye-bye to the Bay Area. Associated Press via CNN, 1999-11-23.
- Lawrence Phillips convicted of assault. CBC News, 2006-10-10.
- Phillips' agent again severs ties. New York Times, 2002-08-21.
- Lawrence Phillips sentenced to prison Associated Press, October 3rd, 2008, retrieved from Yahoo! Sports
-  Associated Press, December 18, 2009, retrieved from Fox News
- "Inmate Locator." California Department of Corrections. Retrieved on January 29, 2011. "PHILLIPS, LAWRENCE LAMOND G31982 35 10/16/2008 Lancaster."
- ESPN.com article (August 22, 2005) - Phillips arrested; also wanted for domestic violence
- "The Mystery of Lawrence Phillips" Omaha World-Herald (6 November 2005) Accessed 3 October 2008.
- KFFL (fantasy football league news) Retired Player Lawrence Phillips
- Foxnews.com article (December 18, 2009) - Ex-NFL Player Sentenced to 31 Years in Prison for Assault