RUNNING FOR HIS LIFE: The Lawrence Phillips Story, a powerful documentary examining the cycle of domestic violence that plagued two-time NCAA Division I college football champion Lawrence Phillips and the personal demons that led to his death in January, will premiere on Friday, Dec. 16 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on SHOWTIME.
Through interviews with football legends Tom Osborne, Dick Vermeil, Steve Young, Nick Saban and more, as well as some of Phillips’ closest confidants, RUNNING FOR HIS LIFE peels back the curtain on the tragic life of one of America’s most talented and most flawed athletes.
Phillips, a powerful running back and two-time national champion at the University of Nebraska, led a team that has been called by some the most dominant college football team in history, the 1994/’95 Cornhuskers. During his tenure at Nebraska and a short stint in the NFL that followed, Phillips was convicted of several shockingly violent offenses, including domestic abuse and assault with a deadly weapon.
RUNNING FOR HIS LIFE examines Phillips’ propensity toward domestic violence, an epidemic increasingly found at the intersection of sports and American society. The film illustrates the influence and support of the coaches and teammates that came to love Phillips. In the end, however, it was not enough to overcome the violent tendencies that led to his incarceration and ultimately to his death.
Among the roots of Phillips’ troubles is a stint at Los Angeles’ infamous MacLaren Hall, a children’s group home that, “produces long-term psychological damage to children,” according to children’s activist and former MacLaren Hall foster child Andrew Bridge.
“I wish, maybe somehow, I could have made more of a difference,” former Nebraska head coach Tom Osborne explains in the documentary. Osborne suspended and subsequently reinstated Phillips during their 1995 championship season, a controversial move that was made “to save Lawrence’s life, not to save games,” according to former Nebraska teammate Aaron Davis.
“If I had to do it over again today, I might not have fired him,” said former St. Louis Rams coach Dick Vermeil, who fired Phillips in his second NFL season after a series of alcohol related incidents. “A wasted, gifted human being. It haunts me.”
RUNNING FOR HIS LIFE will premiere shortly after the 2016 Heisman Trophy ceremony, an award Phillips was considered the favorite to win in 1995 before he, “flushed it all away,” according to longtime Omaha World-Herald reporter Henry Cordes.
In addition to retrospectives from many who played with or competed against Phillips, the film introduces those who knew Phillips best: Barbara Thomas, the woman who rescued him from state-run foster care, Tony Zane, Phillips’ coach at Baldwin Park High School in Los Angeles who guided Phillips during the college recruitment process, and Amaliya Weisler, one of Phillips’ victims who received love letters from him while he was incarcerated in the final days of his life.
RUNNING FOR HIS LIFE is produced and directed by Sports EMMY Award winner Ross Greenburg. It is the latest in an expansive lineup of unscripted documentary films from SHOWTIME Sports. Additional titles include “ONE & DONE” (Ben Simmons), “KOBE BRYANT’S MUSE,” “PLAY IT FORWARD” (Tony Gonzalez), “IVERSON,” “I AM GIANT: Victor Cruz,” “THE DREW” (Baron Davis), and “DEAN SMITH.”