Former University of Nebraska standout running back Lawrence Phillips was found unresponsive early Wednesday at the Kern Valley State Prison in California and taken to the hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. He was 40.
Josh Peter of USA Today passed along confirmation of the news from California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokeswoman Terry Thornton. The death is being investigated as a suspected suicide.
Veronica Rocha of the Los Angeles Times reported in April that Phillips was serving 31 years in prison before allegedly killing his former cellmate, a charge that carried the possibility of the death penalty.
He was originally accused and convicted of domestic violence against his live-in girlfriend. Before being sent to prison on those charges, he reportedly ran over three teenagers outside Los Angeles Coliseum because he thought they stole his belongings, according to the L.A. Times report.
Phillips rose to prominence during his breakout 1994 campaign at Nebraska. He rushed for over 1,700 yards and scored 16 touchdowns as the focal point of the Cornhuskers offensive attack. In all, he scored 30 touchdowns across three seasons with the team.
He was then selected sixth overall by the St. Louis Rams in the 1996 draft. He could never match his college success at the NFL level, however. He made brief stops with the Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers as well as in other leagues before his football career ended in 2003.
No further information about what led to his death was immediately released.