CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – When Ohio State Buckeye running back Maurice Clarett dove into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown in the National Championship win over the University of Miami in 2003, no one would ever think eight years later how it would all end up.
Clarett’s career has been well documented, and not for all the right reasons. Instead of becoming a Heisman Trophy winner, multiple championships, and rushing titles with the Buckeyes, it all came to a sudden and shocking end.
Just about everyone knows the story. Clarett was suspended for the 2003 football season after he was charged with filing a false police report. He had filed a false claim that more than $10,000 in clothing, CDs, cash and stereo equipment were stolen from a car he borrowed from a local dealership in September 2003.
Then he tried to sue to be included in the 2004 NFL Draft, something that eventually failed badly after he won his case at trial. However, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision.
Finally, in 2005, Clarett entered the NFL Draft, and with final pick of the 3rd round he was selected in a shocker by the Denver Broncos. He didn’t even make the roster, pushing him further into despair.
He found his way to prison after multiple arrests, ending what appeared to be any chance of life in pro football. But, it was there that he found himself. Taking classes, he educated himself and put the past away, and now Clarett plays football in the UFL for the Omaha Nighthawks, and also speaks to students about the importance of making good decisions.
Friday he was a guest of “Clevleand’s Talking Heads” with Andy Baskin and Jeff Phelps, and spoke candidly about his life, his time in prison, and his feelings on the NCAA.
Clarett in enjoying his second chance at football, and while it’s only the UFL, a league with four teams, Clarett says it’s so far so good for he and his Nighthawks.
“Football’s going great, not going well in the win column, but guys are still working hard, and we’re soon to have more more success I believe there,” Clarett said.
The back takes responsibility for the issues that cost him his freedom. Instead of taking those mistakes and making them worse, Clarett learned from his mistakes, and says people in his position should try and make themselves better.
“I learned more in California than I think I did my whole life,” Clarett said. “When your isolated and across the country you have to take care of yourself. You learn who you really are.
“The decisions I made at Ohio State made sense at that time, I don’t regret anything in that effect,” Clarett said. “I think maybe when I was 23, 24 I had some regrets, I kinda beat myself up about the position I was in, but you know at this day and time I really don’t worry about it.”
One would think that Clarett could be bitter about the way things ended up for him. Instead of enjoying life as a NFL running back making millions, he now spends his days with his family and talking to kids about making better choices than he did.
He has little in the regrets department, a fresh change from some who have made mistakes and talk about nothing but going back and changing things. He tries to pass that along to others when he talks to them about their future and going the right path.
“It’s just everyday choices. Finding how to love yourself and identifying your positive characteristics is most important,” Clarett said. “When I was in prison I didn’t understand how to love myself or those techniques.”
The now near 28-year-old Clarett turned his life around in prison. He took on-line courses and improved his life. He learned to love reading, and becoming a better person.
He knows all about success, and success at a program like Ohio State. He had 100,000 people cheering for him every Saturday when the Buckeyes took the field in their undefeated season going 14-0.
To be able to soak that in and not develop a huge ego is something Clarett understands, and he feels for current players of today who are young and trying to do things the right way.
“You go from a nobody to a somebody in a major program on a national stage, it’s a high like none other,” Clarett said. “You wake up and that’s the reality of it everyday, a lot of process a lot of people can’t relate, and they spew hate.
“At that point in my life I just didn’t know how to manage success,” Clarett said. “At that point in my life I thought being arrogant was cool, trying to have a lot of girlfriends was cool, spending money, those are things that were priority in my life.”
Now that priority is trying to keep things on the straight and narrow, and becoming a better person. He does have strong opinions about the way current NCAA athletes are treated, and things that it’s a process that needs to be looked at carefully.
“I firmly believe that the NCAA needs to be changed,” Clarett said. “The process of how they judge athletes or how they treat them.”
The story for Clarett isn’t over yet. He plans on still trying to make it, playing football or otherwise. He’s working hard to try and inspire others, and after years of being the butt of jokes and a player considered a failure, he’s now a person that college kids today should look up to as someone who has been there and done it all.
Some good, some bad, but learning from his mistakes.
Follow Matt Loede on Twitter @MattNFLGG