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Deadspin: How Maurice Clarett Lost His Way

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Lanky Livingston

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Thought this was interesting, as it was Shanahan that gave him his opportunity in the NFL.
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In 2009, Joe Moglia, then the CEO of TD Ameritrade, quit his job to coach football. He wanted to coach a college team. But no athletic director wanted him. So he took a job, in 2011, as head coach of the UFL's Omaha Nighthawks, a team that included former Buckeye Maurice Clarett. Moglia had an unorthodox style: He ran a once-a-week class called "Life After Football," and after training camp dinners, he would make everyone stand up and tell his life story. Forbes's Monte Burke trailed Moglia—who has since earned the head job at Coastal Carolina—during the coach's time in Omaha. What follows is an excerpt from Burke's book, 4th and Goal: One Man's Quest to Recapture His Dream.

In the evenings, Joe makes the last half hour of dinner mandatory for everyone on the team. The reason: Each night, for the duration of training camp, he will be asking the players and coaches, one by one, to stand up at dinner and introduce themselves. He wants them to talk not only about their careers in football but also about their lives. A few of the more bashful players will end up talking for only 30 seconds or so. But most of the folks jump at the opportunity to share their stories.

The players talk about their jobs outside of football (quarterback Eric Crouch sells medical devices that help women deal with vaginal prolapse), their injuries (nose tackle Dusty Dvoracek had a promising NFL career derailed when he tore a bicep while tackling the Minnesota Vikings' Adrian Peterson), and their broken home lives (both of running back Noel Devine's parents were dead of AIDS by the time he was 11).

On the seventh night of training camp, Maurice Clarett, the troubled former Ohio State star, stands to speak at dinner. This is the introduction that many have been waiting for. The dining room goes utterly silent; there are no forks scraping plates, no ice tinkling in water glasses.
Clarett speaks in a raspy, barely audible whisper. His voice, like Mike Tyson's lisp, doesn't seem to fit his body—5-11 and 230 muscled pounds—nor does its softness jibe with what the public knows about his past.

He begins by telling the room that football was his first true love. He played the sport nearly every afternoon in his Youngstown, Ohio, neighborhood. When it rained he played carpet football with his brothers inside the house. He would pretend to be Emmitt Smith or Thurman Thomas.

But trouble happened to be his other passion. He was arrested multiple times before he was 14 years old, mainly, he says, because he was trying to impress the older kids in the neighborhood. In the eighth grade he was arrested for breaking and entering a house. While attempting to flee the scene, he jumped out of a second-story window and hit his head. He got 13 stitches for the wound. That's why, since high school, he has always worn the number 13 on the football field.

He was sent to a juvenile detention center. There he met a high school football coach who took him under his wing, and who intervened on his behalf with the judge and negotiated a house arrest. Clarett worked out with the coach every day after school.

In high school, Clarett was a dynamo on the field. He rushed for 248 yards in one of his first games as a freshman. He says he never really went to class, and he was allowed to slip through the academic cracks because of his football ability. In his senior year he was named the best prep player in the state of Ohio. He was heavily recruited, but decided to stay near home and attend Ohio State. He loved the coach there, Jim Tressel.

Clarett made the team as a freshman as a backup running back. Tressel told him that in the team's first game—at home against Texas Tech—Clarett would get three series of work. "I did nothing in my first two series," says Clarett. But on the third one, he broke a long run. The home crowd went crazy. "The fans put you in games, at least at Ohio State," he says. He finished that game with 175 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

He was a hard worker in practice and in games. But off the field, he was living a completely different life. "I took golf, fishing, and softball as classes," Clarett says. "Away from class, anything you can think of I did in my 13 months at Ohio State." Drugs and women were two of the things. Cars were another—he owned three of them at a time, including a brand-new Cadillac and Lexus. "I was living the NFL life in college," he says. "I got paid more in college than I do now in the UFL."

In the 2003 national championship game against Miami, Clarett made the two crucial plays that led to Ohio State's win: He stripped the ball from Sean Taylor's hands after the Miami safety had intercepted a pass in his own end zone, which led to three important points for the Buckeyes. Then he scored the championship-winning touchdown in overtime. The sky seemed like the only limit for Clarett.

Instead the sky fell on him. Clarett was suspended from the team for receiving what were deemed "improper benefits." He also falsely alleged that $10,000 worth of goods had been stolen from him. (He later pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of failure to aid a law enforcement official.) Clarett tried to enter the NFL Draft. But by NFL rules, a player had to be at least three years out of high school to become eligible. He sued. His case eventually went to the Supreme Court. He lost.

The next two years were lost in a fog of drug and alcohol use. "I would ride around in my car carrying life sentences, with pounds of weed and bricks of cocaine," he says. In 2005 he worked out at the NFL's Draft Combine and performed woefully. He was nevertheless drafted by the Denver Broncos in the third round that year. In Denver's training camp, he says, he was partying hard at nights and clashing with his coaches during the day. He was cut before the end of camp.


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Nobody

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Army

So he turned his life around (at least publicly) after ruining many lives for the first few decades of his life and being a blight on humanity? He's still a class A dickhead. Him and Lawrence Phillips can both go to hell as far as I'm concerned.
 

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You're absolutely right Mike, I just don't like the guy. It's like Charles Kembo. Killed a bunch of people, and tried to get his death sentence commuted just because he turned his life around in prison and started writing childrens books. I applaud the effort, but what's done is done.

I'm not saying people can't change, I'm just saying that the ones who leave a path of misery and destruction in their path and ruin lives can't undo the past just because of the enlightenment that it took prison to achieve. Especially guys like MC who were given the dream life and threw it all away, and the reason he made ammends could be nothing more than self pity over wasting his life and having nothing.
 

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