Rams Running Back Lawrence Phillips A Bust On The field And Off
By Steve Rivera
Was Los Angeles Rams, then St. Louis Rams Running Back Lawrence Phillips the biggest bust in franchise history? There is compelling evidence that says so, and so much more.
Los Angeles Rams fans will remember Lawrence Phillips for a lot of things. They’ll likely remember his predecessor, Hall Of Famer Jerome Bettis being traded away on draft day, and then the team promptly selecting Phillips with the sixth overall pick in 1996.
The rest, as they say, is a matter of history. For one running back, a long and illustrious career that would include a Super Bowl and a stop in Canton. For another, a football vagabond who’d see his NFL journey travel through St. Louis, San Francisco, Miami, Barcelona, and two stops in Canada.
Canton wasn’t on his itinerary. Prison was, and it was his last stop in a life pockmarked with self inflicted wounds and a tragic ending.
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I was reminded of Lawrence Phillips when I recently read a piece by Alden Gonzalez of ESPN, who noted the one time Rams running back as one of the franchises all-time draft day busts.
It’s a fair assessment.
Phillips career as a Rams running back was less than two seasons.
As a matter of fact, his professional career wasn’t much of a lot of seasons. What began in 1996 in St. Louis, wrapped up in Calgary with the Stampeders in 2003. He’d appear in a total of 68 games, rushing for a career total of 3,982 yards on 912 attempts.
As far as busts’ go, Phillips is uniquely if not tragically qualified. His football career would segue into multiple run-ins with law enforcement, eventually ending up at Kern Valley State Prison in California.
His life doesn’t have a chapter of “redemption.” He didn’t find his way back to civility, or find a faith that inspired a more peaceful and less violent existence. All of those things seemed missing from his personal DNA.
The violence he found familiar on the football field would touch every facet of his life, including in prison.
On April 11, 2015, Phillips’ cellmate would be found choked to death. On September 1 of 2015, he’d be charged with first-degree murder, and on November 9, prosecutors were granted a motion to consider seeking the death penalty.
Lawrence would ultimately save the state of California the trouble.
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On January 13, 2016, Lawrence Phillips would be pronounced dead of an apparent suicide.
When reminded of Phillips career, football seems a small footnote in an otherwise troubled and violent life, where a less than two season stint with the Rams is as distant from memory as anything you’d ever find.
To remember Lawrence is to remember a lot of things.
Being remembered as an all-time bust for the Rams seems the least of them.