Read the Insightful, Terrifying Letters Ex-NFL Player, Lawrence Phillips, is Sending from Prison

Lawrence Phillips (AP Photo/Anne Cusack)
Lawrence Phillips (AP Photo/Anne Cusack)

The handwritten letters have arrived with the same return address: Lawrence Phillips G-31982, Kern Valley State Prison, P.O. Box 5101, Delano, CA 93216.

Yes, that Lawrence Phillips.

The star running back on University of Nebraska’s national championship teams in 1994 and 1995. A first-round pick, sixth overall, in the 1996 NFL draft. A convicted felon — sentenced to 31 years for driving his car into three teenagers and assaulting an ex-girlfriend — under suspicion for the recent death of his cellmate in a maximum-security prison 140 miles north of Los Angeles.

Authorities have said little about the investigation since finding the body of Damien Soward, a former gang member serving 82 years to life for first-degree murder, unresponsive in his cell on April 11. That same day, a second inmate was named as a suspect in the death of his cellmate in the prison designed to hold fewer than 2,500 inmates but that currently houses more than 3,700 inmates, a prison spokesman said.

Phillips, 40, appealing his sentence, has made no public comment outside of the courtroom in more than a decade. But USA TODAY Sports obtained copies of letters he has written over the past 18 months that offer insight into his state of mind and situation.

He wrote several of the letters to Tony Zane, who coached Phillips at Baldwin Park High School in Southern California. Phillips transferred to the school before his junior year, and Zane recalled starting him at wide receiver, rather than running back, in the season opener. “Shows you what I know,” Zane said with a chuckle.

Zane moved Phillips to running back that next game, and Phillips helped transform Baldwin Park into a powerhouse as the coach and player developed a strong and lasting relationship. Zane said he has regularly sent Phillips care packages that have included everything from a TV to gym shorts to snacks.

Here are Phillips’ letters to Zane and other coaches. (They have been edited for length and clarity.)

JAN. 14, 2014

Dear Coach Zane,
How are you doing? I’m doing well. As you might have noticed on the envelope, I have been moved from the cell I was in. I spent some days in the hole for refusing to room with a gang member. They have now took my privileges, which include yard (exercise), canteen, vendor packages, and all personal property for 180 days. I will of course appeal this decision as I was refusing to room with gang members after already having had incidents with gang members.
At any rate, I just wanted to write to you and let you know in case that the package I requested was returned. I have not received any mail since moving, so I do not know if you sent the package. They are supposed to re-route mail, but they usually don’t check and make sure they guy in the cell is the correct guy to receive the mail. At any rate, I will appeal the situation and I should get relief due to my several incidents involving gang members.
We are on lock down at this time due to a murder and the stabbing of five other dudes.
I hope you and your family are well and had a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Several letters have been written to Ty Pagone, a retired vice principal and former football coach at Baldwin Park High. Phillips was living at a boys home when he transferred to Baldwin Park and Pagone helped Phillips get on track academically so Phillips would be eligible to accept college scholarships. Phillips and Pagone, a close friend of Zane, also developed a close relationship.

MAY 29, 2014

Dear Coach Pagone,
We are still today on lock down due to some stabbings and assaults between black and white inmates. It has been ongoing for sometime.
I am glad to hear Marie’s wedding was great. Usually an open bar leads to a lot of dancing.
I do not have a cell mate. All of these dudes want to use drugs and (illegible) weapons in the cell. I’m in the process of applying for single-cell status. I will let you know how that goes.

Handout ---  Examples of letters written by former college and NFL running back Lawrence Phillips who is in prison in California and writing  to former high school coaches. [Via MerlinFTP Drop]


Click here to continue reading…

USA Today, For the Win

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s