Maurice Clarett Gets a Second Chance

by Ryan Isley (Originally posted 7/29/2010)

In 2002, a young 18-year-old nationally heralded running back by the name of Maurice Clarett accepted a scholarship offer to play football at Ohio State.

Eight years later, a 26-year-old Maurice Clarett enrolled in summer classes at Ohio State to resume his academic career after spending three and a half years in the Toledo Correctional Institution on convictions of robbery and weapons charges.

The names may be the same, but make no mistake, as these are two completely different people.

The 18-year-old Clarett ran for 1,237 yards and 18 touchdowns as a freshman despite missing three games due to injury.

The five-foot-11 freshman also had several key plays, including the winning touchdown in the second overtime, against the Miami Hurricanes in the 2002 BCS National Championship Game, helping the Buckeyes win the national championship.

The spectacular season had people around Columbus buzzing like very few times before and made Buckeyes fans start to believe that Clarett could join Archie Griffin as the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner, if not becoming the first player to win the award three times if he stayed all four years.

Then the bottom fell out for the teenager at Ohio State when Clarett was suspended for the 2003 football season after he was charged with filing a false police report. Eventually Clarett plead guilty to failing to aid law enforcement, a lesser charge.

After his suspension Clarett decided, along with USC freshman wide receiver Mike Williams, to challenge the NFL’s eligibility rule and therefore be included in the 2004 draft, a challenge that was eventually denied.

Despite not having played football in 2003 or 2004, Clarett was unexpectedly taken in the third round of the 2005 draft by the Denver Broncos, despite a poor showing at the NFL Combine.

Clarett was released by the Broncos before playing in even a single preseason game and was never claimed by another NFL team.

Unfortunately that was only the beginning of a downward spiral for Clarett.

Shortly after the ringing in of the new year in 2006, Columbus police were on the hunt for Clarett in connection to an armed robbery outside the Opium Lounge club in Columbus.

When Clarett turned himself in the next day, he was charged with two counts of aggravated robbery and five weeks later, he was indicted by a grand jury on two counts of aggravated robbery with gun specifications and five other counts.

While awaiting trial, Clarett was again arrested, this time on charges that he made an illegal u-turn and led police on a chase, charges that resulted in his bail being set at $5 million.

After accepting a plea bargain, Clarett was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison, but could be released after just three and a half years.

While in prison, Clarett started to write a blog entitled “The Mind of Maurice Clarett” on October 7, 2008.

Through his writings, it was becoming clear that Clarett was beginning to change, to see the wrongs he had done and that he wanted to do better.

His last post, on August 15, 2009, read:

“One thing that really frustrates me is that I have not been relevant to my family for the past four summers. That puts a chip on my shoulder. I have no one to blame but myself.  The thoughts just put me in a zone like no other. It puts me in my “One and only” mode. I know that there is no way for me to make up for lost time but hopefully my actions in the future will help them to forget all that’s taken place in the past. I never thought I’d once again be in the position of thinking how am I going to get out of this rut. I think that the longer I wait the more serious I become. I think it’s because I have a good understanding on what it means to be physically free.”

It seemed to be the beginning to a new Clarett, the one who just this past Monday at 26 years of age started classes again at Ohio State.

The new Clarett is in a position to turn his life around and make right for what he now knows was wrong, a spot that not everyone gets a chance to be in.

One person who has been by Clarett’s side is Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel, who was instrumental in getting Clarett re-enrolled at the school.

In speaking with the Columbus Dispatch’s Ken Gordon, Tressel said that he had been working with Clarett and the school for the past few months to get Clarett enrolled and said that Clreatt is excited to be back in school.

In a statement from Clarett released by Ohio State, the former star athlete-turned-student showed that excitement.

“This is a surreal feeling to be back at Ohio State in such a supportive environment,” Clarett said. “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.”

It seems that Clarett has found something this time around that he did not have in his first tour of Ohio State, a true sense of self and accountability.

While the former Clarett was the one getting the cheers at Ohio Stadium as he broke tackles and ran for touchdowns, it is the latter Clarett that truly deserves the applause because the next time Clarett walks onto the football field at Ohio Stadium, it should be to get his degree.