I said at one point a few years ago that I was done talking about Maurice Clarett.
That was a promise I’ve largely kept. But something’s changed, and I think it’s worth addressing, especially since I wrote him off as the 2006 football season was getting underway and he was starting a stint in prison.
Maurice has been blogging. Take a look.
The Dispatch said his mother confirmed that the entries are in fact his; inmates at the state prison in Toledo don’t have computer access, so he dictates them to family members over the phone and they post them from there.
I’ve spent a good deal of time reading The Mind of Maurice Clarett in the last couple of days. And by in large, I’ve been impressed.
It’s easy for anyone connected to Ohio State to remember this Maurice Clarett. I’ve said before: the 2002 team simply wouldn’t have won the national championship without him. That was a magical season — the only 14-0 campaign in D-1 NCAA history — and No. 13 was an instrumental part of the ride. There were hiccups — an injured shoulder held him out of several games and that forced him to play the Michigan game with that enormous pad on his arm — and signs that things weren’t quite right — like a tantrum at Northwestern when he was admonished about a three-fumble performance and a meltdown prior to the Fiesta Bowl because he wasn’t permitted to travel home to attend the funeral of a friend. But that year we spent with Maurice Clarett was overwhelmingly a good experience.
It’s just as easy for anyone connected to Ohio State — as well as those who want to portray the university’s football program as the poster child for all that is wrong with college athletics — to remember this Maurice Clarett as well. To many of us — including me — this was the last thing I needed to hear about Clarett, after taking benefits from a booster, lying to police about a theft from his car and lying about receiving impermissible academic assistance before he was kicked out of school, a botched crack at making an NFL roster and, finally armed robbery and a police stop of a heavily armed Clarett, who was apparently headed somewhere with bad intentions.
Hoo. That’s quite a list. It started almost immediately upon the completion of that magical season, and didn’t seem to let up for years.
I think prison is still ostensibly about rehabilitation, and if you spend a little time reading the blog, it appears that that’s what Clarett is trying to do. He’s taking college classes — through OU, no less — and has vowed that the next time he walks into Ohio Stadium, it’ll be to pick up his degree.
He also says repeatedly that he’s picked up blogging in part to help others avoid the mistakes he’s made. He talks about remaking himself and becoming an asset to the rest of us when his time in jail is done. The entries are overwhelmingly, relentlessly positive, like he’s determined to come out of prison a different person than he was when we went in.
There isn’t a whole lot of football talk, although I was struck by this, in the midst of a discussion about how he could inspire others on the outside:
Remember that when you mention Ohio State and you begin to mention some of the “greats,” don’t forget to mention Maurice. When you put the photos in your memorabilia books, don’t forget #13. I inspired my ‘02 class. I made them believe. I was our leader and source of inspiration. I was the big brother. 14-0 felt good and please remember that I closed the deal in the big game.
That’s all true. And if he can be that Maurice when his time in prison is done, he will do some good. When I kissed off Maurice Clarett almost three years ago, I added as a postscript that I wished him well. Time will tell whether he delivers on the promises he’s making; I sincerely hope he does.