Lawrence Phillips was convicted of assault and assorted felony counts Tuesday and could face up to 25 years in prison. This comes while Phillips is in prison on a 10-year sentence for hitting a group of teenagers with his car. Unfortunately every time Phillips' name comes up, it's associated with the term "ex-Husker" or "ex-Nebraska" and Husker fans are forced to deal with him all over again.
I'm not going to spend a lot of time on a refresher course on Phillips, other than he was a star running back at Nebraska when he assaulted his former girlfriend. Nebraska's legendary coach Tom Osborne responded by suspending Phillips and made him take counseling as part of a process to work his way back on to the team. Osborne was torn apart by the national media for his choice, especially when he re-instated Phillips and let him play in the butt-kicking that was the 1996 Fiesta Bowl, a game Nebraska easily won 62-24.
I still believe that Osborne did the right thing when it came to Phillips. It takes a lot more guts to try to help someone than it does to throw them away, and obviously Osborne recognized that Phillips might be better off with counseling. Years later, we have the benefit of hindsight and Phillips has done just about everything wrong on his way to potentially spending most of his life in prison. For many, the fact that Osborne tried to support him is further proof that Osborne was all about winning, a hypocrite, and had sold his soul for a national title (or two or three) when the fact is at the time Nebraska needed Phillips like they needed the plague.
The Huskers would have destroyed the Gators anyway - seven Gators couldn't tackle Tommie Frazier on a single play, for crying out loud - do you really think Lawrence Phillips made any difference? As for Phillips, does anyone really think that if Osborne had thrown him off the team that Phillips' life would have turned out any different? And as for Osborne, would he do the same thing again today if given the choice? Or is the only thing that matters here to Husker fans is how embarrassing Phillips continues to be after all these years?
Husker fans no longer have to wish Phillips away. Facing up to an additional 25 years, he's done that to himself. It's doubtful fans will hear his name again and many can breathe a sigh of relief at that idea.
Unfortunately, people like Phillips will be with us forever, whether they be on our favorite sports team or in our day-to-day lives. Then we're left with a choice - we can dispose of them, or see what we can do to help. It takes a lot more strength to do the latter. Osborne deserves respect, not ridicule for at least trying to help. That you and I could do the same with those that screw up in our own lives, the world might be a better place.