Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Phillips falls from Heisman hopes to handcuffs

There are a lot of times in life when we hope for second chances. Maybe you let the girl of your dreams slip through your fingers. Maybe you decided not to study for that exam that was worth 40 percent of your final grade.

There are also a lot of times in sports where athletes’ and coaches’ careers live and die on second (or third or fourth or fifth) chances, and these past few weeks have supplied many examples.

More often than not, I am all for second chances.


For instance, I hope that a gallon of cow juice does not hinder a Florida Marlins batboy from getting another job down the road. The youngster was suspended six games by the team last week when it found out he took a dare from Dodgers’ pitcher Brad Penny. The challenge: drink a gallon of milk in less than an hour without throwing up for $500.

But sometimes, people just do not deserve second chances.

See: Orioles slugger Rafael Palmeiro … You probably aren’t going to get a second chance if you appear before Congress and lie vehemently multiple times under oath.

Some people deserve a second chance, but eventually things catch up with them.

See: University of Cincinnati basketball coach Bob Huggins … He led the Bearcats to the NCAA tournament 14-straight seasons, making him one of the most popular faces in Cincy. The school never seemed to mind the fact that the list of players who actually graduated from the university may have been even shorter than the number of Bearcat teams to advance past the second round of the tournament in those 14 years (4).

UC finally wised up last week when it decided it didn’t want to deal with his recruiting classes and the public records that came with them.

Then there are those situations that make you scratch your head and wonder what could have been.

Lawrence Phillips has had too many chances for me to count, but I thought I’d give it a shot.

Given the chance to play at Nebraska under coach Tom Osborne back in the mid-’90s, Phillips emerged as one of the best running backs in the country and won back-to-back national championships with the Cornhuskers in ’94 and ’95. Sounds pretty peachy, eh?

The only problem was, Phillips nearly found his way off the ’95 team — arguably the best college football team in history — by assaulting his girlfriend. He was suspended from the team, but Osborne, feeling the running back deserved a second chance, reinstated him in time for the Fiesta Bowl. Osborne then “advised” Phillips to go to the NFL.

Despite his legal troubles, the Rams gave Phillips a chance by drafting him with the sixth overall selection in the 1996 NFL draft.

Phillips played 25 games with the Rams, running for more than 1,200 yards and scoring 12 touchdowns while managing to keep his name out of local papers. However, the Rams released him late in the 1997 season for insubordination.

With numbers like that, somebody was going to give him another chance, and the Miami Dolphins picked him up before the end of the season. He picked up 44 yards in two games, but didn’t last through the summer, as the Dolphins released him after an alleged run-in with a woman at a local nightclub.

His next chance came across the Atlantic Ocean with the Barcelona Dragons of NFL Europe. It appeared he was back to his true form, setting league rushing and scoring records as the league’s top offensive player.

So could he make the transition back to the NFL?

He got the chance when the San Francisco 49ers took a chance with him in 1999. He lasted eight games before he was booted from the team for missing practice.

He signed with the Arena League’s Bobcats. He left the Arena League’s Bobcats. He signed with the CFL’s Alouettes. He was cut by the Alouettes. He signed with the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders. He was cut again.

The list of legal infractions over those seven years could probably take up a whole page.

If you ever wanted to shake somebody and tell them to pull it together, Phillips would have been the guy. But nobody could right this sinking — or already sunken — ship.

That brings us to last week. The one-time NFL running back, a three-year letterwinner at Nebraska and two-time national champion, was playing first-string running back at a California public park in a pickup game with a bunch of high schoolers.

All in good fun, right? I mean, maybe he turned his life around and was just having a little fun? Think again.

Instead, the 30-year old got in an argument with the teenagers and drove a car — a stolen car — into three of them.

Phillips had more chances to turn his life and career around than the actual number of chance cards in the game of Monopoly. He happened to pick up his last card last week. I hear it said, “Go directly to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.”

Although, if you’re looking to take a chance, might I suggest picking up Phillips for your California Penal League Fantasy Football team. I think he’d complement “Wild Thing” Rick Vaughn pretty well.

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