Skip to content

Lawrence Phillips found dead in prison cell

22 Jul 1998: Running back Lawrence Phillips #21 of the Miami Dolphins looks on during the 1998 Miami Dolphins Training Camp at the Nova University in Davie, Florida. Getty Images

Former NFL first-round pick Lawrence Phillips is dead at the age of 40.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation released a statement Wednesday announcing Phillips’ death. He was found unresponsive in his cell at Kern Valley State Prison early on Wednesday morning and transported to a hospital where he was pronounced dead a short time later. Prison officials suspect that Phillips took his own life.

Phillips was serving a 31-year sentence for inflicting great bodily injury involving domestic violence, corporal injury to a spouse, false imprisonment and vehicle theft and was also facing a murder charge related to the death of his cellmate in 2013. Because of that charge, Phillips was in an Administrative Segregation Unit in a cell by himself at the time of his death.

Phillips was the sixth overall pick of the 1996 draft by the Rams after starring at the University of Nebraska. He entered the league with a history of off-field issues, including an arrest for assaulting his girlfriend, and those issues continued before and after his 35-game NFL career that also saw him spend time with the 49ers and Dolphins.

Permalink 77 Comments Feed for comments Latest Stories in: Home, Los Angeles Rams, Miami Dolphins, Rumor Mill, San Francisco 49ers
77 Responses to “Lawrence Phillips found dead in prison cell”
  1. joecool16280 says: Jan 13, 2016 1:27 PM

    He missed the block on Aneas Williams that pretty much ended Steve Young’s career.

    Sad story.

  2. cafetero1075 says: Jan 13, 2016 1:28 PM

    He raped and killed someone. This guy was a mess. All started I bet he was enabled like Aaron Hernandez all through high school and college.

  3. ctiggs says: Jan 13, 2016 1:28 PM

    What a troubled young man, who wasted a ton of talent. Not sure if this is really sad though, considering the harm he has caused to others.

  4. scoops1 says: Jan 13, 2016 1:29 PM

    the saddest thing in life is Wasted Talent

    LP wasted all his……

  5. sb44champs says: Jan 13, 2016 1:30 PM

    Mental illness is no laughing matter…..

  6. jonwill57 says: Jan 13, 2016 1:31 PM

    Wow…what a shock…NOT! Prime example of knowing when some people aren’t deserving of a second chance because of his talent.

  7. maiphatdong says: Jan 13, 2016 1:32 PM

    good riddence

  8. rideforjesus says: Jan 13, 2016 1:33 PM

    Sad sad case. Was there anyone who could have intervene with this young man?

    I question our compassion and our desire to always find fault in people.
    I remember watching him in college.

    Sad to read this.
    May our Lord find your soul and forgive you your sins and bring you home to rest Lawrence.

  9. daysend564 says: Jan 13, 2016 1:33 PM

    He heard his Rams were moving in next door

  10. dalvar1001 says: Jan 13, 2016 1:33 PM

    RIP Sad when the best thing you can do for yourself and society is to check out.

  11. mrplow3 says: Jan 13, 2016 1:34 PM

    RIP Phillips.

    This dude had ridiculous talent. I know everyone will come here in saying good riddance but it makes me sad to think a guy with everything going for him would come to committing suicide in a prison cell serving a 31 year term. Wow.

  12. ejmanuelshands says: Jan 13, 2016 1:34 PM

    So much talent, so little heart.

  13. PATRIOTSDYNASTYLIVES says: Jan 13, 2016 1:35 PM

    Everyone loves the feel good story of the guy that came from nothing and changed his life due to sports to make a better life for himself and his family……..doesnt always end like that…..sad story

  14. rankster1950 says: Jan 13, 2016 1:36 PM

    We will be reading this same article down the road only the name will be Aaron hernandez

  15. ejmanuelshands says: Jan 13, 2016 1:36 PM

    rideforjesus says:
    Jan 13, 2016 1:33 PM
    Sad sad case. Was there anyone who could have intervene with this young man?

    I question our compassion and our desire to always find fault in people.
    I remember watching him in college.

    Sad to read this.
    May our Lord find your soul and forgive you your sins and bring you home to rest Lawrence.
    ————————————————–

    Nice sentiment. Agreed. But you will find little compassion on these boards. Sports fans have bloodlust, and are vindictive.

  16. orangecrusher77 says: Jan 13, 2016 1:39 PM

    What makes this sad is the hell that this man must’ve been raised in from birth that created the monster he became. What makes this scary is thinking about all the other kids that are currently growing up in the same environment. What will become of them?

    Being an enabled athlete only made his situation worse over time “cuz goddamnit, football is what makes a school great!!!” #sarcasm

  17. adelphos33 says: Jan 13, 2016 1:41 PM

    College football officials and coaches are supposed to be educators. Unfortunately Phillips was enabled at Nebraska by lenient coaches and officials, which led to further destructive behaviour down the road. I’m sure he got preferential treatment earlier in his life, but he was a troubled guy who for many years wasn’t punished or set straight. Sad that this resulted from this, especially given his talent.

  18. orivar says: Jan 13, 2016 1:42 PM

    Sad end to his life story.

  19. dorn09 says: Jan 13, 2016 1:45 PM

    rankster1950 says:
    Jan 13, 2016 1:36 PM

    We will be reading this same article down the road only the name will be Aaron hernandez

    I don’t think so. He seems right at home behind bars.

  20. richcranium2112 says: Jan 13, 2016 1:48 PM

    So sad, but really, was it unexpected?

    Tragic end to tragic life.

  21. purplengold says: Jan 13, 2016 1:48 PM

    Held indefinitely in solitary, slowly losing what little sanity you might have, knowing you will spend the rest of your life in prison, most would wish for death. How sad.

  22. granadafan says: Jan 13, 2016 1:49 PM

    Tom Osbourne ran a criminal asylum in Nebraska, and allowed rapists, gangbangers, thieves, a really violent kids in that no self respecting program would allow in. Phillips was the poster boy for being enabled for doing whatever he wanted just because he was a star player. His players had ZERO accountability and the university/ DA’s office were fully supportive of this policy much to the chagrin of the coeds, fellow students, the local population. Osbourne made Urban Meyer look like a choir boy for all the trouble his players had at Florida.

  23. jonathankrobinson424 says: Jan 13, 2016 1:49 PM

    …..the day the LA Rams are Re-born, a trouble player from their original days dies……..The world has it’s own sense of balance.

  24. folkcrusader says: Jan 13, 2016 1:50 PM

    Whatever troubled that young man so terribly, it’s over now.

  25. humpofdc says: Jan 13, 2016 1:50 PM

    He could not overcome his demons. A trouble soul.

  26. dryzzt23 says: Jan 13, 2016 1:53 PM

    Let’s not blame Phillips’ actions on “mental illness”.

    Phillips made CHOICES to do what he did to put himself in jail. He allegedly knew right from wrong, and he chose to do wrong.

    He is a prime example of what not to do. Also, he is a poster boy (he and Burfict) of why NFL teams should not draft miscreants such as Pacman Jones, Burfict, Phillips, etc.

    Football cannot take the “hood” out of these kind of people. NFL teams should just accept that guys like Burfict and Phillips don’t care about rules of football or society and are merely out to get paid and get “street cred”.

  27. billswillnevermove says: Jan 13, 2016 1:54 PM

    I can’t even say I’m surprised. What a wasted talent, wasted life.

  28. duanethomas33 says: Jan 13, 2016 1:55 PM

    Troubled tortured soul. Unlike you idiots on here, I knew Lawerence. He was well liked by his teammates, but had his personal demons. My hope is he finds rest for soul, because there was none on this side. May God bless his Soul.

  29. cardinalsfan20 says: Jan 13, 2016 1:57 PM

    RIP – Couldn’t anyone help this troubled soul? His letters from prison were heartbreaking.

  30. conormacleod says: Jan 13, 2016 1:57 PM

    Some people don’t deserve a second chance…

    Football has nothing to do with it. He was a horrible human being.

  31. badmoonrison says: Jan 13, 2016 1:59 PM

    Just a sad cautionary tale overall. Thoughts go out to his family and children if he had any.

  32. nflofficeadmin says: Jan 13, 2016 2:00 PM

    A cautionary tail.. This young man clearly had mental illness that went untreated and this is how it ended. It could be anyone, Vontaze Burfect, Blackmon, the list goes on and on.. if the illness goes untreated it does not heal itself. Quite the opposite, in fact.

  33. broncosfanatic277 says: Jan 13, 2016 2:00 PM

    I read his letters from prison some time last year and if I remember right, he took some responsibility for his faults & didn’t want this new roommate he ultimately murdered. Very tragic ending to a tragic life. Guy had a lot of demons & issues early on and couldn’t get past those.

  34. kingpel says: Jan 13, 2016 2:00 PM

    RIP Lawrence. A sad story that many of today’s younger players need to hear.

  35. anusfur says: Jan 13, 2016 2:00 PM

    I agree with the comment regarding mental illness. So many people need help and aren’t getting it. And they so many other people pay the price. But we’ll race this horse until he breaks down.

  36. xpensivewinos says: Jan 13, 2016 2:02 PM

    Absolutely shocked he made it to 40.

  37. laukkanen5 says: Jan 13, 2016 2:02 PM

    if anyone has the time instead of just making fun of him, pull up the article i believe on bleacher report about a year ago..
    Phillips was a good person who didn’t have much chance in life…father left his mom, mom’s boyfriend beat him all the time…
    easy to sit back and say he was this or that. I am not condemning what he did, but there were many reason why a truly good soul got lost along the way.
    RIP Lawrence…loved u…Husker forver..

  38. davew128 says: Jan 13, 2016 2:07 PM

    adelphos33 says:
    Jan 13, 2016 1:41 PM

    College football officials and coaches are supposed to be educators
    **************************
    No…they are football coaches. Educators are educators.

  39. southerncor says: Jan 13, 2016 2:08 PM

    Sad to see the comments posted on this site. A man lost his life. No compassion for his family who lost a loved one. Yes, he made mistakes, and he is paying for them. He who have no sin cast the first stone. I guess its true what they say. People love animals more than minorities. If this was Lyle Alzado or someone else, you would be mourning their death. I do not care if I receive plenty of dislikes for this comments.

  40. blashi says: Jan 13, 2016 2:08 PM

    R.I.P. May God bless your family

  41. voiceofrealism says: Jan 13, 2016 2:11 PM

    laukkanen5 says:
    Jan 13, 2016 2:02 PM
    if anyone has the time instead of just making fun of him, pull up the article i believe on bleacher report about a year ago..
    Phillips was a good person who didn’t have much chance in life…father left his mom, mom’s boyfriend beat him all the time…
    easy to sit back and say he was this or that. I am not condemning what he did, but there were many reason why a truly good soul got lost along the way.
    RIP Lawrence…loved u…Husker forver..
    ————————————————-
    No, he wasn’t a good person. I am condemning what he did. That word doesn’t mean what you think it means…

  42. doggeatdogg says: Jan 13, 2016 2:11 PM

    Your journey is over Mr. Phillips. Hopefully your soul will find peace.

  43. shlort says: Jan 13, 2016 2:11 PM

    I can think of at least a dozen guys whose names can be in this exact headline at some point in time. Two have been recent centers of attention on this site.

    I’ll start it off and anyone who wants to can add a name.

    Adam “Pacman” Jones.

  44. ncfloyd says: Jan 13, 2016 2:11 PM

    The Rams drafted this guy and traded Bettis away in ’96. Genius!

  45. 52lightsxout52 says: Jan 13, 2016 2:11 PM

    My thoughts and prayers go out to all his victims…

  46. voiceofrealism says: Jan 13, 2016 2:13 PM

    southerncor says:
    Jan 13, 2016 2:08 PM
    Sad to see the comments posted on this site. A man lost his life. No compassion for his family who lost a loved one. Yes, he made mistakes, and he is paying for them. He who have no sin cast the first stone. I guess its true what they say. People love animals more than minorities. If this was Lyle Alzado or someone else, you would be mourning their death. I do not care if I receive plenty of dislikes for this comments.
    —————————————–
    He took his own life after committing enough crimes to be put in prison. He didn’t lose his life. He took it. He got exactly what he wanted.

  47. phinfan says: Jan 13, 2016 2:18 PM

    This dude had sick talent. Its a shame

  48. catfish252 says: Jan 13, 2016 2:29 PM

    Very very sad, what a wasted life. My prayers for his family and loved ones.

  49. purpleguy says: Jan 13, 2016 2:29 PM

    You gotta wonder how different his life might have been had he received the proper treatment for his obvious mental illness while still in college.

  50. yyc2phx says: Jan 13, 2016 2:32 PM

    I had the opportunity to talk to LP once and I walked away thinking “this can’t be the same guy everyone talks about”..Mild mannered great talent full of demons…

  51. lambeaudungbarn says: Jan 13, 2016 2:32 PM

    His Family had 21 years to fix the Mental issues, some people are just born bad.

  52. ayub04 says: Jan 13, 2016 2:32 PM

    It’s funny…when we think of children being abused (physically, psychologically, sexually) we cry our hearts out and demand justice and accountability. When these abused children grow up still learning to cope with the trauma, and commit violent and or sexual crimes themselves, then we cast them aside. I’m not saying he’s a good person or a saint, but to ignore or minimize the crime committed against him, is counterproductive.

  53. jason9696 says: Jan 13, 2016 2:41 PM

    What a sad story just like the Aaron Hernandez one.

  54. catfish252 says: Jan 13, 2016 2:41 PM

    adelphos33 says:
    Jan 13, 2016 1:41 PM

    College football officials and coaches are supposed to be educators
    **************************
    No…they are football coaches. Educators are educators.

    ************************************
    You are so wrong — take a listen to Tom Coughlin’s exit speech, and then look at all the players who made comments about their love and admiration for him and the way he taught them to be men. Anyone in the sports world, the business world, and even the military have a responsibility to help and educate those who work for them regardless of their age or background.

  55. sagatti says: Jan 13, 2016 2:51 PM

    Lawrence was troubled. My father worked at the GROUP HOME he was raised in. All of the things said about his mother and boyfriend are true. He was removed by the state. Nebraska plucked him from that group home via Baldwin Park HS.
    Tom Osborne was the only father figure he had. My dad would say how talented he was then but had mental and emotional problems.
    Everyone has a story. That was his.
    RIP..

  56. sagatti says: Jan 13, 2016 2:51 PM

    Lawrence was troubled. My father worked at the GROUP HOME he was raised in. All of the things said about his mother and boyfriend are true. He was removed by the state. Nebraska plucked him from that group home via Baldwin Park HS.
    Tom Osborne was the only father figure he had. My dad would say how talented he was then but had mental and emotional problems.
    Everyone has a story. That was his.
    RIP..

  57. mmmpierogi says: Jan 13, 2016 3:01 PM

    Wow. I actually forgot about this guy until now. All I remember was that he was super highly touted coming out of Nebraska, the Rams were so confident in him that they traded Bettis to the Steelers on draft day, and then his career went nowhere.

  58. grandpoopah says: Jan 13, 2016 3:01 PM

    RIP, Lawrence.

  59. cambodianbreastmilk says: Jan 13, 2016 3:25 PM

    Kinda figured he was gonna die in prison, just not this soon. Wow.

  60. sb44champs says: Jan 13, 2016 3:44 PM

    Let’s not blame Phillips’ actions on “mental illness”.
    ==========================
    Didn’t know you were a licensed psychiatrist… Unless you are you have no clue

  61. Dug says: Jan 13, 2016 4:11 PM

    Someone above asked if anyone tried to intervene, yes is the answer. Dick Vermeil did. As a coach and father figure. Tried to help him even after the Rams cut him.

  62. theneedforspeeed says: Jan 13, 2016 4:14 PM

    duanethomas33 says:
    Jan 13, 2016 1:55 PM
    Troubled tortured soul. Unlike you idiots on here, I knew Lawerence. He was well liked by his teammates, but had his personal demons. My hope is he finds rest for soul, because there was none on this side. May God bless his Soul.
    —————————————-
    Were you his friend when he destroyed the mailboxes in the wall of his girlfriends dorm, WITH HER HEAD?
    Were you his friend when he REPEATEDLY was accused of sexual assault and other violent crimes, only to be let off with no charges because he was a STAR?

    Did you try to help, or were you too afraid of his temper, like everyone else? He was trouble from the start, and it seems like the people around him who COULD HAVE HELPED, did nothing but ride his coattails.

    Sad day indeed.

  63. whyalwaysthehate says: Jan 13, 2016 4:15 PM

    Thanks again Tom Osbourne.

  64. whenwilliteverend says: Jan 13, 2016 4:39 PM

    This should serve as a cautionary tale for those idiots currently playing who feel like they can do anything and nothing will ever happen to them. As a former grad school professor had on his office door “Nobody is completely useless. They can always serve as a bad example.” This story is about someone who made a string of bad choices in his life but got away with it most of the time because he was good at football.

  65. savior72 says: Jan 13, 2016 6:06 PM

    Not all those who are abused in one way or another as children grown up and murder people. His upbringing is no excuse for the crimes he committed. He has a lot of demons to hang out with now.

  66. ballbreaker707 says: Jan 13, 2016 6:25 PM

    Stop it already!!!! This was a very bad guy. He could not even stay out if trouble in jail. Total mess. Sorry I don’t want to see anyone die but this guy deserve every tin he got

  67. mackcarrington says: Jan 13, 2016 6:27 PM

    ..the day the LA Rams are Re-born, a trouble player from their original days dies
    ——–
    Philips never played in Los Angeles. St. Louis drafted him.

  68. bobC927 says: Jan 13, 2016 8:38 PM

    The saddest thing in life is WASTED TALENT.

  69. phantomgremlin says: Jan 13, 2016 8:46 PM

    I hope there will be a thorough autopsy done. He had a lot of problems, but I wonder if CTE didn’t make things worse?

  70. wjm980 says: Jan 14, 2016 5:41 AM

    And article from NBC in 2013 said, “(i)n 2011, suicides made up 5.5 percent of deaths in state and federal prisons, which was more than drug and alcohol intoxication, homicide and accidents combined.” Considering that many of these people have absolutely nothing to look forward to for the rest of their lives, I’m surprised it’s not much higher.

  71. completefan says: Jan 14, 2016 6:45 AM

    You omitted from your post that he also played for the Montreal Alouettes, where he was instrumental in a Grey Cup win, and also for the Calgary Stampeders.

  72. harbourimages says: Jan 14, 2016 7:56 AM

    I hope Greg Hardy and Burfict are paying attention. This could be them in a few years….

  73. daddeeo says: Jan 14, 2016 9:22 AM

    Sounds like a true PUNK.

  74. tdubdizzle says: Jan 14, 2016 9:59 AM

    Truly a sad story. A man that had it all and threw it all away.

    It is disappointing as a society that we did not create the resources we needed for people like Lawrence to get help.

    P.S It is great to see so many comments of support here considering how harsh this site is. RIP Lawrence Phillips

  75. paul1990 says: Jan 14, 2016 12:29 PM

    Per an idiot above:

    Tom Osbourne ran a criminal asylum in Nebraska, and allowed rapists, gangbangers, thieves, a really violent kids in that no self respecting program would allow in. Phillips was the poster boy for being enabled for doing whatever he wanted just because he was a star player. His players had ZERO accountability and the university/ DA’s office were fully supportive of this policy much to the chagrin of the coeds, fellow students, the local population. Osbourne made Urban Meyer look like a choir boy for all the trouble his players had at Florida.

    Evident this guy has no clue how Osborne handled things at Nebraska. He takes one thing and blows it up. He was not enable. He was suspended and that if he wanted to be on the team again, had to meet detailed criteria for that to happen. He met those and was reinstated. Osborne has kicked many other players off the team over the years that didn’t tow the line. Ignorant hick.

  76. coloradotennisfan says: Jan 14, 2016 2:36 PM

    Some excellent comments. LP’s life ended as a tragedy. From the comments, it seems that he was abused as a youth and committed numerous crimes throughout his adult life. RIP LP. Other professional athletes should see his life as a cautionary tale. Life is short and precious. Stardom is fleeting.

  77. lambeaudungbarn says: Jan 14, 2016 9:02 PM

    NFL needs to Ban players like this from playing!
    But Money over Morals any day!
    But where did I hear about the Daddy abandoning his Family before?

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!