Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

22 Aug 2005

Lawrence Phillips Arrested Again

Big surprise, Lawrence Phillips is in trouble with the law. I remember an interview one time with Tom Osborne, then the Nebraska coach, now a congressman. The interviewer asked Osborne why he didn't discipline Phillips more harshly, and Osborne's response was, "What would that have done for Lawrence Phillips?" The interviewer didn't respond to that, but my response would have been, "Maybe it would have taught him there are consequences to his actions." It's a lesson Phillips still hasn't learned.

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 22 Aug 2005

19 comments, Last at 24 Aug 2005, 11:46pm by primantis


by Carl (not verified) :: Mon, 08/22/2005 - 8:15pm


Still, if Phillips could have displayed that sort of rush blocking in the league -- taking out three guys in one drive -- he'd be a HOF fullback.

by Russell (not verified) :: Mon, 08/22/2005 - 9:29pm

Osborne's smug attitude with regards to Phillips has always turned my stomach. He was kicked off the team after dragging his girlfriend down three flights of stairs -- by her hair -- but the good congressman saw fit to reinstate him in time for Nebraska's bowl game. It just so happened to be the national championship game against Florida in the Fiesta Bowl after the 1995 season. Phillips had a big night, Nebraska rolled, and then Osborne advised Phillips that perhaps he should move on to the NFL. In other words, thanks for the title, now get the hell out of here before you besmerch my good name again.

This latest incident, if it turns out to be true, is defies belief. He is wanted on three separate domestic violence warrants against two different women, one of whom he is alleged to have choked into unconciousness, when he allegedly ran down these kids in a stolen car.

Way to go Larry.

by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Mon, 08/22/2005 - 10:10pm

How many times has he been in trouble with the law? This really illustrates a problem with our legal system. Shouldn't he be "rehabilitated" by now? Will they keep him in jail for more than 5 years so he won't be able to terrorize the neighborhood?

Oh, and... allegedly... because he's innocent until proven guilty.

by BHW (not verified) :: Mon, 08/22/2005 - 10:19pm

Phillips wasn't needed for that National Title game; his backup was Ahman Green, and the Cornhuskers won by nearly 40 points. Phillips had a big game, but I still think Nebraska would have won the game handily even if he had not played.

I think Osborne was quite sincere in his attempts to help Phillips straighten out his life. Phillips came from a difficult background, and I believe Osborne (who holds a degree in education) saw it as his duty to help mold Phillips into a mature adult. I believe that in Osborne's mind, football was the one thing Phillips had going for him, and taking that away from him completely would serve no purpose. Yes, learning that actions have consequences is an important lesson, but so is learning to change and make amends. Phillips had been suspended for a good part of the season before reinstated, and I believe the intent was to teach him both lessons.

I don't know that Osborne made the right decision. Would Phillips' life had been better if he hadn't received 25 carries in the Fiesta Bowl? I don't think so -- he was given multiple chances by multiple teams and good men (Vermeil, Mariucci) to get his life in order, and he declined them all. The responsibility for that rests with Phillips, and Phillips alone.

by Russell (not verified) :: Mon, 08/22/2005 - 11:58pm

BHW: The Huskers could have won that Fiesta Bowl with me at tailback, but that's besides the point. If Phillips had been the lone bad apple on that team, I'd be more inclined to believe Osborne's contention that he was trying to help him by making him eligible for one single game -- the national title game -- and then basically telling him to leave. But those Nebraska teams were chock full of guys who were on the wrong side of the law, including one, if memory serves, who was investigated for attempted murder.

There are lots of ways to help people with troubled backgrounds, but the fact that Phillips was brought back for that game, and only that game, makes it awful hard for Osborne's gesture to pass the smell test.

But you are 100% correct that Phillips is solely responsible for the position he's in today. Clearly, this is a man that's not interested in following the rules that the rest of society lives by.

by kyle (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 1:14am

i believe that osborne did what he truly believed was best for lawrence phillips. whether it truly was best or not is difficult to judge.

as a husker fan, it always makes me sad to see news about phillips, because it's never good news, and i know that the public at large always considers phillips' acts to be a reflection on the university and the football program.

by Moe (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 6:25am

This kind of story reminds me of the scene at the end of Bull Durham where Crash is ranting about the difference between hitting .250 and being out of the league and hitting .300 and being a star is "one lousy blooper a week".

Phillips is responsible for his actions and his troubles started while he was still on the way up, but I can understand how some of these guys crack when they come up just short.

by Parker (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 9:49am

I can too. I just prefer that if a guyt cracks it's in the form of a rant in a bar about how things could have been rather than punching and choking women or trying to run over a bunch of people.

by C (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 9:52am

Lawrence Phillips in trouble with the law? I'm shocked. Shocked!

Maybe if he could play against women, he'd be All-Pro. We know he's good at hitting women.

by MDS (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 11:30am

"Phillips wasn’t needed for that National Title game; his backup was Ahman Green, and the Cornhuskers won by nearly 40 points."

That's true, but Osborne didn't know that at the time he reinstated Phillips.

The one thing that I don't think people mention enough about Phillips' pro career is that he's the one who missed the block that led to the hit that ended Steve Young's career. For a good guy and great player like Young to have his career ended because Phillips didn't bother to learn his blocking assignment is infuriating.

by Adam H (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 12:43pm

Hah, I forgot Green and Phillips were in the same backfield. Ahman's still in LP's shadow, he's only had domestics with one woman.

by BHW (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 1:04pm

But those Nebraska teams were chock full of guys who were on the wrong side of the law, including one, if memory serves, who was investigated for attempted murder.

Riley Washington was investigated but exonerated.

Yes, there were a couple of people in that era that had some run-ins with the law at Nebraska. But I don't know that having a handful of guys like that in a 25-year coaching career is that much of an indictment; most large programs will have a few bad apples from time to time. I think Osborne was legitimately saddened to have to deal with that, and that it led to his retirement from coaching.

Perhaps I am idealistic, but I believe there are many coaches at the collegiate level that take their educational responsibilities seriously. That, of course, doesn't justify all of their actions, but I think the situation looks very different if you are trying to be a mentor to a troubled young man for three years than it does if looking at the situation from the outside.

by Jim A (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 2:24pm

Re: #11. Ahman Green has had several domestic abuse incidents with two different women. See link on my name.

by Johonny (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 2:53pm

You mean Tom Osborne was willing to look the other way when it's was to his benifit. No wonder he's a Rethug in congress now.

by Bulldozer36 (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 12:23am

Im sorry but with guys like Phillips and Robbins I just dont care. They were given physical attributes 1 in a 1000 get and they waste it for no apparent good reason. Honestly, I read the article to find out if the kids were ok, not to see how Phillips was doing.

by KnickerBlogger (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 1:58am

Does Phillips hold the record for most leagues played in after 18yrs of age? NCAA, NFL, NFLE (or WLAF), CFL, 16 yr pick up league in the park, & the 2005 Fall California Penal League (thank you Charlie Sheen). He might be released in time for NFL Asia or if CFL starts a developmental league in Greeland/Iceland.

by Airish (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 3:49pm

This is why college athletics should be banned, or at least made to become amateur again. These guys are not students in any sense of the word, and the entire sports system is a sorry, totally corrupt mess. If the system was truly reformed, Phillips would be selling crack on the corner and someone who was a real student might be in a class in his stead. Most of these so-called college fans would then be forced to get a life.

by masocc (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 9:29pm

Re: #15

Surprisingly, by linking Phillips with Robbins, you've hit the nail on the head. I'm willing to wager that Phillips also has some form of mental illness. The secondary problem is that no one one cares when people blow up for 'no apparent good reason'.

Yes, there are a few psychopaths out there that just can't be rehabilitated. But for every 1 true psychopath, there are at least adozen people labeled as such that are simply mentally ill.

There is NO coach or jail on the planet that is going to 'fix' a Robbins or a Phillips. A psychiatrist, or therapist? Maybe.

I can't find much background info about Phillips, other than his blotters, but what I did find is quite telling: He grew up in a youth home. Which tends to indicate he either ALREADY had these problems when he was a child, or more likely, was the victim of domestic violence or neglect already as a child. I could go on about learned behavior and such, but I suspect my efforts would be in vain.

I deal with people like this every day. I'm not saying we shouldn't hold them accountable for their actions... but what I AM saying, is that we shouldn't be so quick to just permanently throw them in a box (literal or figurative) for them. Typically, people act in certain ways for a reason. It's generally failure in the SYSTEM when someone (like Phillips) continues to violate societal mores.

by primantis (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 11:46pm

I'm with Airish. The charade of having lowlifes like Lawrence Phillips and Christian Peter portray college students long ago turned me off to college football. Besides, I only have so much free time to devote to football watching, and the NFL is so vastly superior in every way that I can think of.