Former NFL Running Back Lawrence Phillips Found Dead in Prison

The 40-year-old University of Nebraska standout was found unresponsive in his cell at California’s Kern Valley State Prison early Wednesday. 

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Miami Dolphins’ running back Lawrence Phillips (left) in 1996 

RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images

Lawrence Phillips, the college football standout whose life was littered with highlight, jaw-dropping, on-the-field runs and checkered with off-the-field issues, was found dead in his cell at California's Kern Valley State Prison early Wednesday, according to USA Today. Phillips' death was being investigated as a suicide, according to a press release from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Phillips, 40, was facing the death penalty for the killing of his former cellmate, Damion Soward, according to USA Today. Soward was found unresponsive in the cell that he and Phillips shared April 11, with the cause of death noted as strangulation, according to the coroner's reports. Soward's blood was found on several of Phillips' items, including T-shirts, a folder and a bag. After an investigation, the Kern County District Attorney’s Office filed criminal charges against Phillips Sept. 1.

In 2009 Phillips "was sentenced to 31 years in prison for two separate incidents—driving his car into three teenagers and assaulting an ex-girlfriend," according to USA Today.

USA Today reports that a month before Soward's death, Phillips wrote his mother, noting that his anger might lead to him "snapping." 

"I feel myself very close to snapping,'' Phillips wrote in a letter dated March 5, 2015, according to the newspaper. "My anger grows daily as I have become fed up with prison. I feel my anger is near bursting and that will result in my death or the death of someone else."

Phillips led the University of Nebraska to two back-to-back national championships in 1994 and 1995. He was the sixth overall pick by the St. Louis Rams in the 1996 draft. His NFL career never quite panned out as he bounced around the league, playing with the Miami Dolphins and the San Francisco 49ers.

Read more at USA Today.