That’s not to say the player’s death didn’t touch the JSU football program.
The Gamecocks recruited Phillips in high school and were close to signing him until Auburn swooped in at what Crowe called “the 12th hour.” In April, with his playing time limited on the Plains, the player told The Star he planned to transfer to JSU.
“He had said he was going to enroll in July, but he had not even made application,” Crowe said. “It was happening rather slowly, in my opinion. I was beginning to wonder how sincere his interest was ... but he was committed."
Crowe said there were no academic hurdles related to Phillips’ transferring to JSU.
“I think Ladarious was at a crossroad,” he said. “I talked with him three or four times about what he wanted to do. He had stayed credible as a student, he had some goals and I think he wanted to make a change and just didn’t have time to completely get where he was going.
“He wanted to be here. He wanted to play. That was the one thing – when I said what position do you want to play, he said he just wanted to get on the field. I think he was a young man who missed being on the field and having a chance to play.”
Auburn police today identified Phillips among those killed in the shooting incident. Also killed were Edward Christian, 20, an Auburn University student and former football player, and 20-year-old Demario Pitts.
John Robertson, 20, was injured in the shooting, police said, as was 20-year-old Auburn lineman Eric Mack, and Xavier Moss, 19.
Police and U.S. Marshals are searching for Desmonte Leonard, 22, of Montgomery, who has been charged with three counts of capital murder in connection to the shooting incident, Auburn police Chief Tommy Dawson said.
Crowe said he was informed of the shooting incident by two assistant coaches early Sunday morning. He called the death of any young person “the ultimate tragedy.”
“I don’t think there’s anything worse,” he said.
It wasn’t the first time the JSU football program has been touched by a deadly shooting. In October 2006, one season removed from his days in the Gamecocks secondary, Darren Williams was shot and killed by a masked gunman in Atlanta
“This is always a risk in our society,” Crowe said. “Guns are prevalent and guns are prevalent on campuses, unfortunately, and whatever substance was involved, which there usually is, the combination of the two can cause tragedy. It can happen anywhere. It’s not a football thing. It’s not an Auburn thing. It’s some of our social dynamics: Too many people with guns.”
Crowe said the JSU football players attend “Habitudes” meetings every Wednesday to discuss behavior and attitude issues, conducted by FCA liaison Jamie Strange. The coach expects the incident in Auburn will be heavy in the conversation this week.
“We always try to bring current events into teaching situations,” Crowe said. “I promise you Jamie will be talking about this at the beginning of this hour.
“If there’s a lesson here, your attitude and habits start with who you’re with and where you’re at. It’s what you become. You are what you do. Your attitude and habits define you. … I don’t think there’s anything in this that discredits (Phillips), if being at the wrong place at the wrong time discredits anybody. It’s just sad.”
Staff Writer Al Muskewitz: 256-235-3577. On Twitter @JSUSports_Star