Review: Running for His Life – The Lawrence Phillips Story


Phillips in 1996 vs. Florida.

Beautiful, tragic, heartbreaking and complicated. Those might be the best words to describe the life of former Husker Lawrence Phillips.

The story of LP to anyone from the state of Nebraska or the world of college football is anything but a mystery. If you followed the Cornhuskers at all in the 1990’s you know the ups and downs of the life of the most controversial runningback in the history of the program.

But what you probably don’t know are the details, reasons and the deep tragedy that was the man who asked Tom Osborne as a senior in high school “Who wears No. 1 for your team?”

Showtime captured the story of LP in 88 minutes better than anyone could have ever thought.

Growing up an avid fan of 1990’s Husker football, I was well aware of a lot of the details of Phillips life and the string of arrests that followed him through each juncture of his life. The incident with his girlfriend while at Nebraska, the drunk driving, the assault of other exes and ultimately him running over a kid after a pickup football game; we all knew about it and had our opinions.

“He’s an idiot.”

“What a waste of talent.”

“No one should have given him another chance.”

But what the Showtime documentary did was allow us to see deep into the life of LP and how things got turned sideways long before he ever played a down of college football. There isn’t a person I know that can truly say they’ve been through a childhood like LP. It was heartbreaking. From his father leaving, his mother losing custody and then being moved into an institution that was eventually shutdown due to its treatment of the child it was overseeing no one should have expected much from LP as an adult.

It was a miracle that Phillips made it to Nebraska. Fueled by demons, hate and wanting to not let down those who had taken an interest in him, he had done it. He had beaten the odds. . .until it all fell apart.

As for the documentary itself, the piece was very well put together. It had interviews from people who you never thought you would here from in a documentary that could be portrayed as a very negative piece on the Nebraska football program. For the Husker football fans it definitely brought back a lot of nostalgia from the 90’s and did a good job of keeping the focus on LP and not some of the other stories from that era.

Instead each interviewee shed light onto the person LP was that nobody else knew. From his coaches, to teammates and his close friends they all notched out tiny details about a guy they all cared very much for but also understood how troubled he really was.

Like many, I would have liked to hear from Scott Frost or Kate McEwen about the incident in Lincoln that seemed to ignite the fire of what Phillips eventually became. But for obvious reasons I can imagine both of them want to move very far away from what happened and move on with their lives. It didn’t take away from the flick but it could have certainly added a little bit more to the story.

Even for a person who is a casual football fan or works with kids, I feel like this documentary is a must watch. There is no doubt that LP’s upbringing and lack of support through his formative years made him into the person he became. The likes of Tom Osborne, Dick Vermeil and others were never going to be enough to straighten out the damage caused in LP’s youth.

The doc is very well pull together, the writing was excellent and the narration could not have been done better. If you have Showtime be sure to check it out. If you don’t, steal your parents account login like I do and stream it.You won’t be disappointed.

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