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Back in Football, Maurice Clarett Showing Burst in Wrong Direction

Aug 31, 2010 – 6:00 AM
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Kevin Blackistone

Kevin Blackistone %BloggerTitle%

Maurice ClarettLike a lot of major universities, there is a program at Ohio State for its former athletes to finish their degree work after their playing days are over. Degree completion, it's called. It's as if the school renews the old athletic scholarship that pays the freight but it no longer demands the sweat equity from the recipient. The school just reimburses the tuition, if the former player qualifies, so that the ex-Buckeye can finish building the foundation for a fruitful life.

Maurice Clarett, who as a freshman running back sensation carried the Buckeyes to its last national title in the 2002 season, learned he didn't qualify when he inquired earlier this year about returning to his old stomping grounds. But that was a stunning inquiry in itself.

After all, Clarett quickly became less known for his fabulous freshman campaign and more recognized for 1.) getting suspended by Ohio State after filing a false theft report, 2.) falling at least $1 million in debt from legal fees for fighting, unsuccessfully, the NFL's draft eligibility rules and, finally, 3.) getting sentenced to 7 1/2 years in a Toledo prison on robbery and weapons convictions.



But during his time behind bars, Clarett enrolled in a distance-learning program at Ohio University and started a blog about his prison life titled The Mind of Maurice Clarett. A judge noted Clarett's efforts to reform and granted him an early release four months ago. Clarett applied earlier this summer for readmission to Ohio State, was accepted, plopped down his own money and picked up with one summer class in July in the university's College of Education and Human Ecology where he left off not long after that championship year.

When the summer term ended last week, Clarett asked a judge to allow him to travel to Nebraska to try out for a team in the fledgling United Football League. Unfortunately, the judge agreed and on Monday the Omaha Nighthawks announced Clarett was in camp.

I hope Clarett fails.

Football used him once. He shouldn't let it use him again.

"Practice footage and photos of Omaha Nighthawks running back Maurice Clarett, who will take the field for the first time as a UFL player from 6pm-9pm CST, will be made available, but will not be posted until late tonight, Monday, August 30," the UFL announced in a mass email. "The available Red Line Films broadcast footage will also include opinion from: UFL commissioner Michael Huyghue, Omaha Nighthawks RB Ahman Green, who has volunteered to mentor Clarett, Omaha Nighthawks QB Jeff Garcia, Las Vegas Locos head coach Jim Fassel."

Maurice Clarett
In 2006, Maurice Clarett pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery and carrying a concealed weapon
Clarett, just 26, doesn't need a former football player as a volunteer mentor unless Green tells him to get back on the path he was on this summer at the big campus in Columbus, Ohio. Huyghue, Garcia and Fassel should be telling Clarett the same thing.

After all Clarett's been through, some self-inflicted and some not, he needs a professor or counselor at Ohio State to coach his life for the immediate future, not another huddle of football guys, this time a group looking to make a splash not off whatever talent he has left but off his infamous notoriety.

Finally, it looked as if Clarett was upright and running to the clear again, redeeming his life with an eye on a goal and not just a goal line. He's already tried this before after the Denver Broncos made him a third-round draft pick in 2005 after he was finally eligible. He never saw action in a regular season game and no other team rolled the dice on him.

Clarett as a football player is done. As a productive citizen he's starting all over again. This UFL dalliance appears to be nothing more than a foot tripping him and slowing him down all over again.

"This is a surreal feeling to be back at Ohio State in such a supportive environment," Clarett said in the statement upon returning to college. "I have looked forward to being back in school, and I'm doing my best to fit in with other students. I don't want to be a distraction or nuisance to the football team or to students on campus."

Clarett didn't value Ohio State for what it represented to most of its students, an opportunity for an invaluable education. His stance was somewhat understandable then. He was such a hotshot high school running back recruit that some whispered in his ear that he should be able to do what his high school basketball buddy LeBron James had done and go straight to the pros without passing through a college campus door. But the NFL doesn't take players straight from the prom, so Clarett trudged unhappily to Ohio State. He rushed for an Ohio State freshman record 1,237 yards and scored 18 touchdowns, including the national championship winner against Miami.

Then, all manner of problems -- allegations of academic fraud and disagreements over paperwork for a personal trip -- erupted between Clarett and Ohio State, and the next thing anyone knew Clarett was on the outside looking in. Ohio State, one of the first athletic departments to grow its budget to more than $100 million, never, however, tossed out the money or trophy Clarett brought it.

To Ohio State's credit all these years later, after it refused at one point to let Clarett work out for pros on its turf he once practiced on, it accepted Clarett's application for readmission even if it did disqualify him for ex-athlete funds.

"It's what you hope for," Buckeyes football coach Jim Tressel told the media this summer about Clarett's return to class. "We all make mistakes and some are different mistakes than others and there are always consequences for whatever the mistake is. And if you take care of that -- and usually the world is a forgiving world and gives you the opportunity -- if you do the right things ... [you can] move forward, and that's what he's trying to do."

It's too bad Clarett got lured into taking one more peek over his shoulder.
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