Maurice Clarett’s story has come full circleWritten by Chris Schmidbauer | | firstname.lastname@example.org
When news broke that former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett had re-enrolled in classes at the Columbus university, I couldn’t help but smile a little.
I had the privilege of serving as a student manager with The Ohio State University football team from 2001 to 2005.
I often tell inquiring minds that my time with the Buckeyes was the most complete college football experience I could have asked for.
I was with the team during some of its finest moments in the history of Ohio State football, most notably during the run to the 2002 National Championship.
I was also with the team during some of its darker days, mainly highlighted by the hangover from that championship and the headache known as Clarett.
From his quick rise to stardom to his horrifying fall from grace, Clarett’s story embodies the tragic tale of so many young athletes who gain too much too fast.
My lasting memory of Clarett was one that involved him ruining a Christmas present for my father, a book that I had asked him to autograph. Clarett thought it would be funny to have another player sign it and forge his signature in permanent ink. While it seems somewhat petty today, at the time I was angry and upset.
There’s an old saying that karma is a … well, you get the picture, and to say that the sadage came to fruition for the former Buckeye might be an understatement.
After being convicted on robbery and weapons charges, Clarett spent 3 and-a-half years in a Toledo correctional facility. For all the trouble he caused for the Ohio State program, his arrogant attitude and his reckless behavior, the general consensus was that Clarett was exactly where he belonged — behind bars.
His short but illustrious career at Ohio State was relegated to the punch line of jokes for many, and any Buckeye fan’s lip would curl into a vicious sneer at the sound of his name.
I was guilty, like many, of having a hardened heart toward No. 13.
When reports surfaced, during his prison stay, that Clarett was taking college classes in prison, I snickered. When reports surfaced that he wanted to finish his college degree, I thought, “Yeah right.”
I wasn’t ready to admit the possibility that Clarett had really changed, and I questioned the sincerity of his actions and words. But with news that Clarett had enrolled and begun classes during Ohio State’s second session of summer classes, my hard feelings began to melt away.
It’s surprising how such a small gesture can change so many feelings.
The simple act of taking classes on a campus where he was vilified for the past 8 years showed an immense growth in the former player. After all, Ohio State and Clarett battled like the Hatfields and McCoys for the better part of 2003.
It couldn’t have been easy when Clarett walked into his first class July 26. Everyone instantly recognizing him, the whispers and the stares had to amount to a difficult first day back to school.
The attention even warranted the impromptu news release from the school admitting that Clarett was indeed back on campus as a student.
Clarett was quoted in the release, stating, “This is a surreal feeling to be back at Ohio State in such a supportive environment. 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.”
You would have to be blind not to see the immense growth in the now 26-year-old. Sure, there’s no Heisman Trophy or National Championships in his future, and it is hard not to think what could’ve been.
While there are no more touchdowns in a scarlet and gray uniform in his collegiate future or throngs of fans chanting his name after a big play in Ohio Stadium, Maurice Clarett may still have one big accomplishment left to perform at the Horseshoe — receiving his college diploma.
That, to many, is bigger than any other trophy, championship or award he could ever receive.
Chris Schmidbauer is sports editor for Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Contact him at email@example.com. He also can be heard every Friday at 11 a.m. on the Odd Couple Sports Show on Fox Sports Radio 1230 AM WCWA.