He was the 6th pick overall in the 1996 draft after some spectacular outings for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, but it seems Lawrence Phillips and trouble were partners for life back then, and they still are twelve years later.
Phillips this week (Friday 2 October 2008) was sent to prison for ten years, for assault with a deadly weapon, scribing the darkest and bloodiest exclamation point in the diary of his wasted career, a career that thousands of Americans would have sold their soul to taste.
Having been an NFL fan since 1985 I have witnessed through the television and the likes of legendary UK American football magazine ‘First Down’ the rise and fall of thousands of NFL athletes. Lets just say for every hero that wins a Superbowl there seems to have been an equal amount of villans create and fall into rotten cracks in the NFL’s yellow brick road to immortality.
Lawrence Phillips should have been the running back to have taken the Rams to a Superbowl, or been the one to at least backup Marshall Faulk when the Greatest Show on Turf ruled the NFLs landscape.
Instead he is facing up to the next decade in a prisoncell, mixing with convicts and prison guards who will look down on a man who had the world in his hands, but blew it bigger than 1,000 clowns at a balloon modelling expo.
The first round of the 1996 NFL Draft (30 players) produced 15 Pro-Bowlers – so a pretty good cohort in anyonesbooks. Looking at the first 50 picks only 5 running backs were selected with Phillips the first chosen (#6 overall), drafted ahead running backs Tim Biakabutuka (Panthers #8 overall), Eddie George (#14 overall), Leeland McElroy (Cardinals #32 yep I have no idea who he is either!!!) and Mike Alstott (Buccaneers #35).
Lets have a brief look at the regular season careers of these 5 backs drafted in the 1996 top 50…
Lawrence Phillips – 1,453 rushing yards, 14 rushing tds, 219 receiving yards 1 td – No playoff games
Tim Biakabutuka – 2,530 rushing yards, 14 touchdowns, 789 receiving yards 3 tds – No playoff games
Eddie George – 10,441 rushing yards, 68 touchdowns, 2,227 receiving yards 10tds – 5 playoff tds
Leeland McElroy – 729 rushing yards, 3 touchdowns, 73 receiving yards 1 td – No playoff games
Mike Alstott – 5,088, 58 rushing tds, 2,284 receiving yards, 13 tds – 7 playoff tds
Phillips got selected highest but his low carrer output was below Tim Biakabutuka and his yards per game career average of 41.5 ranks 179th in NFL history. Hardly worthy of a #6 pick.
Phillips had the opportunity to become a hero, but he will forever be remembered as a pantomime villan, a cat who used 8 of his nine lives. About the only thing in Lawrence’s favour is the fact he is still alive – unlike other tragic NFL tales such as Darrent Williams.
Will lessons be learnt behind bars by Lawrence? Maybe. Its too late now though for Lawrence to ever suit up again as a professional football player – what a waste, what a waste.