Real Sports story on former Chief Joe Phillips. Sad, Sad tale.
Real Sports did a piece on how the wifes of former players have to deal with their husbands physical issues after they leave the football field. Interesting but the piece on Joe Phillips shocked me.
I think in a week or so HBO put up a podcast/video of the piece here:
I loved Joe Phillips. We went to the playoffs 5 out of the 6 years he was with the team. DT, Neal Smith, Saluemeau and Phillips were the best DL we ever had here.
He hustled, played the game hard. He was smart. He put himself through law school and still played in the NFL. His wife was a lawyer. Wife was hot. They lived here in the KC metro area. They volunteered in the community. Did United Way commercials for the NFL. I talked with him one time and he seemed real down to earth and had the charisma to be a politician.
But it wasn't a happy ending for Joe after football was over. Within a year he turned nasty and agressive towards his wife and family. Disappeared for days. Did drugs and alcohol. No one knows where he is now. No one has seen him for two years. He hasn't contacted his family. All they know is that he's alive because he will get a DWI in another state. He is now a fugitive from the police.Real sad story. Here's a piece from the KC Star dated 2006.
KANSAS CITY, Mo.--When he played for the Kansas City Chiefs, Joe Phillips appeared to be setting up his family and himself for life.
He was making good money in the NFL as a defensive tackle. In his spare time, he worked for a local law firm, participated in community causes and even was co-host of a radio show with his wife, Cynthia. They had beautiful, blond children.
It was an idyllic life Phillips thought he'd never touch.
"If you talked about preparing for life after football," said Lamonte Winston, the Chiefs' director of player development, "Joe had it lined up."
But today Joe Phillips is a wanted man.
Phillips' smiling visage, the one that flashed across Kansas City television screens in the 1990s, has morphed into a police mug shot--his once-reddish goatee turned to scraggly gray stubble. His face has been posted on a law enforcement Web site under the heading "Have you seen this individual?"
Phillips, 43, is a fugitive from justice in Oregon. He has been arrested twice on charges of driving under the influence during the past two years and once for an outstanding bench warrant for failure to comply with the terms of probation stemming from the first DUI in January 2005 in Clackamas County, Ore.
He was on the lam--or "on abscond"--from November 2005 until May 2006, when he was arrested in Portland, Ore. He was transferred from a jail in Portland to Clackamas County, but was set free because of jail overcrowding. Two days before his June 20 arraignment, police picked up Phillips on another DUI charge while driving a motorcycle in Lincoln City, Ore.
Phillips was released pending a hearing and was to appear in court June 30 in Clackamas County. He never showed. And he's been missing ever since.
But how does a man who stands 6 feet 5 inches and weighs 315 pounds disappear? He has no known job, permanent address or phone number.
A fresh start in Kansas City Joe Phillips joined the Chiefs as a free agent in 1992 after playing the previous five seasons with the Chargers. It was a fresh start, for he had found trouble in San Diego, where he joined the club as a replacement player during the 1987 strike.
A Sept. 26, 1990 fight with three men outside a Mission Beach, Calif., restaurant and bar nearly ended his life.
He suffered a skull fracture, a broken nose, three broken ribs and a broken facial bone near an eye. A police officer testified Phillips had a blood alcohol level of about 0.23--nearly three times the legal limit of .08 for drivers in California at the time.
Phillips entered the Betty Ford Center and completed a 28-day treatment plan for alcohol dependency. In December 1990, Phillips told reporters he had the "possible existence of a genetic predisposition to alcohol dependency."
The Chiefs were aware of Phillips' history with alcohol when they signed him, but because of his stay at Betty Ford, he was subject to random testing. The Chiefs and Cynthia Phillips said he remained clean during his six years in Kansas City.
"I've never seen Joe take a drink," said former Chiefs center and teammate Tim Grunhard. "I had him over at the house for family parties, and he seemed like he was always under control."
During the mid-1990s, Joe and Cynthia were as visible as any husband and wife in Kansas City.
He was on the board of directors of The Don Bosco Centers, honorary chairman for Court Appointed Special Advocates and with Children's Mercy Hospital's Hands & Hearts. Cynthia was on the board of directors for CASA of Jackson County, Mo, and Hope House, a shelter for victims of domestic violence in the Kansas City area. Cynthia, a former aspiring actress, was a co-host of a television pregame show and a radio talk show with her husband. Both had law degrees.
Joe Phillips, who also had a stockbroker's license, worked in the legal department at Sprint and later for McDowell, Rice, Smith & Buchanan, a Kansas City law firm.
"During the offseason, he would work out early in the morning and then put on a suit and tie and go to work at the law firm," said Chiefs president Carl Peterson. "It looked like this was a very stable, fine, outstanding citizen who also happened to play football. And he was a very good player who helped us win a lot of games."
Indeed, the Chiefs went to the playoffs in five of the six years Phillips started at defensive tackle. He and fellow tackle Dan Saleaumua did the dirty work of taking on double-team blocks that freed outside pass rushers Derrick Thomas and Neil Smith to get to the quarterback.
Phillips set an example in the Chiefs' locker room for how to plan for life after football. He helped Winston develop programs to help families cope with life in the NFL and encourage young players to find offseason internships that would lead to post-football careers. He appeared in the first video for the league's player development program.
A downward spiral Joe Phillips played his last game with the Chiefs on Jan. 4, 1998, a bitter 14-10 loss to the Denver Broncos in an AFC playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium. Phillips was so distraught that he drove home in full pads and uniform.
He spent 1998 with the St. Louis Rams and 1999 with the Minnesota Vikings before calling it a career. And then, despite all the years of preparation, Phillips' life plan began to change.
He wanted to move somewhere warm, and he took the family to Vero Beach, Fla., even though his wife and children preferred settling in Kansas City.
"We bought a house on the beach, we had saved all our money and I thought we were pretty set," Cynthia said. "The only mistake we made was going there without a purpose. Now what do we do? It totally fell apart from the day we moved in. Something inside of him snapped."
The couple had talked about doing broadcast work, but instead he wandered aimlessly, leaving the house for days at a time. She suggested they open a law practice, but she said her husband didn't want to do anything.
Adjusting to life after football--without its glamour and game day excitement--only added to the pressure cooker.
Phillips' peak earnings were between $1 million and $1.24 million during the 1995 and 1996 seasons. The money didn't last long.
"All he did was spend," Cynthia said. "I want to say 90 percent of what we saved was spent. That compulsive behavior goes hand in hand. He bought and wrecked a boat. He was constantly looking for the thrill to replace that high you get from playing. He wasn't finding it in the constructive places."
She said their home became a volatile place.
"Not having to be subjected to drug testing, he relapsed," Cynthia said.
Phillips did check into a treatment center, but in August 2001 he walked out and filed for divorce.
"I was shocked," Cynthia said. "I figured he could beat this thing again. I don't know what his reasons were."
Cynthia and the children--daughters Ashley and Marian, sons Joseph and John--have resettled to Cynthia's hometown of Washington, Pa., outside Pittsburgh. She does some substitute teaching and raises the little ones, with a support group of family and friends.
Cynthia said Joe saw the children for six weeks in 2003 and 2004 and last January during Super Bowl week. The visits, according to 19-year-old daughter Ashley, were "very difficult."
Compounding the strained relationship with his family, Phillips owes $34,000 in back child support, according to court records.
"It was sad to see him go from such a great dad to drinking and letting himself go," Ashley said. "It was difficult for me because I had to fill his role, watching the kids when my mom had to go to the store. It's sad for me to see my youngest brother, John, because he never had a father figure around."
After the divorce, Phillips gravitated to where he grew up--working class and the son of a truck driver--in the Pacific Northwest. His family members blame the breakup for his woes.
"He's being rebellious," said his father, trying to explain the DUI arrests and other issues with the court. "I've never seen him drink to excess."
Phillips has some wherewithal to fund his wandering. In 2004 he received his NFL annuity worth more than $86,000, plus $130,000 in workers' compensation,
according to his former wife. He also receives a monthly NFL disability benefit of $3,840, though it is uncertain where the check is sent or how it is cashed. And he has an NFL pension worth about $250,000 due in two years--the last vestige of a perfectly planned post-football life.
Most of the rest is gone: the career, the community causes, the celebrity. All of it outside his reach.
For now, Joe Phillips drifts.
If he is caught, he could face up to one year in jail. The longer he is a fugitive, the more severe a sentence he will face, said his probation officer, David Rice.
agreed BRC--Phillips was one of my favs-his understated/rock-steady performance reminded me of Phil Hansen of the Bills. Sad indeeed!
They did a piece on him in the Star a few months back. It is sad.
Edit - I see that you put the piece in from the Star, and I guess it was longer than a few months. I'll try to grab the HBO podcast when it comes up.
JP was one of my favorite Chiefs of that era.
The announcers couldn't get though a game (seemingly) without mentioning that Joe had a law degree etc.
Make me VERY, VERY sad that he's basically a transient and worst of all a dead beat, abusive father.
What a shame. Phillips was a good guy.
I blame Nick Athan and Carl.
I would guess alot of NFL players go through this when they retire. Obviously not to that extreme, but im sure they go through it.
I'm pretty sure a lot of linemen suffered undiagnosed brain trauma from so many hits to the head over the years. You take someone with a previous predisposition to illness or addiction and you throw in the hits to the head and a drastic lifestyle change and it is difficult for them to cope. IIRC it happened with Webster as well.
I can't tell you guys how disapointing it was to discover that about Phillips. I hope justice is served but I just hope the guy gets the help he needs.
He is also the reason for the All Joe Team and is named after him.
You know, I can't help but noticed that everybody beat up on Heath Ledger yesterday for abandoning his daughter. Is this any different?
Sad indeed, Hey Joe,here's hoping you find yourself and get some help !
Mr. Chochise yes there is a big difference. He abandonded four kids instead of one, and is thousands of dollars behind in child support. To me he's ten times worse then Heath. He brushed them aside physically, emotionally and financially. They ought to take the money he has coming due to him and give it to his ex. I don't think there is any kind of excuse for his type of behavior.
People can become slaves to them. Nothing else matters. Not family, children, your own well being. Just the next high.
That's a pretty bold statement.
I think that Aaron Brown, Jerry May, Buck Buchanon and Curly Culp might have something to say about that.
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