Former Nebraska Cornhusker running back Lawrence Phillips has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of his cellmate in a California prison.
The cellmate, 37-year-old Damion Soward, was found strangled in his cell in April. He was taken to a hospital, but died the next day.
Phillips is serving a 31-year prison sentence after being convicted of choking his girlfriend and then driving into three teens after a pick-up football game.
Phillips is 40.
Phillips began a troubled career at Nebraska in 1993 when he was suspended from the first game of his freshman season because of an alleged fight with a teammate. He rushed for nearly 600 yards his freshman season, which included a 137-yard game against UCLA. Phillips had 64 yards in the 1994 Orange Bowl against Florida State.
Early in 1994, Phillips was charged with assaulting a man during a fight in Lincoln; a charge that later was dropped.
In 1994, Phillips rushed for 1,818 yards and scored 16 touchdowns in Nebraska’s championship run. He finished 8th in the Heiman voting.
The 1995 season started out rocky. Phillips got to play despite being under the NCAA spotlight for allegedly having lunch with an NFL agent.
Phillips’ trouble only increased when he was accused of dragging his girlfriend down the stairs by her hair after finding her with a teammate. Phillips pleaded no contest to misdemeanor trespassing and assault.
Coach Tom Osborne suspended Phillips for six games.
Phillips returned to play in the Fiesta Bowl against Florida, in which he rushed for 165 yards and two touchdowns to help Nebraska win another national championship.
The St. Louis Rams drafted Phillips 6th overall in the NFL draft in 1996. He had a number of run-ins with the law and his NFL career ended in 1999, when the San Francisco 49ers released him.
Phillips is now housed in the segregation unit at the Kern Valley State Prison.