By: Samantha Schott, Ryan Meier
On Thursday, September 4, 2014 Maurice Clarett spoke to an audience of Bethany College students in the college’s cafeteria. Clarett began his speech by asking a young volunteer what it meant to be a man. The student starred back at Clarett with a blank stare. He asked again, “Define what it means to be a man”. The audience would soon be enlightened into the series of events during his life that led him to where he is today.
Clarett then transitioned into the next part of his speech by telling us about when he was a young man growing up in Youngstown, Ohio. Clarett was in and out of the juvenile detention center three times in the past thirty days, at a young age. During his third stint in the detention center, a man came up and told him that he would help him over the summer to get his life back on track.
Over that summer Clarett was introduced to the game of football, and instantly fell in love with the sport. In a short matter of time, Clarett was involved with the local high school football team, lifting weights and working out with them on a regular basis. Clarett would find new friends that were a much better influence for him, and would help him achieve success in life. During Clarett’s freshmen year of high school he was given the opportunity to start the opening game of the season. It was after his first couple games when he ran for 100 plus yards that he knew he had the opportunity to become something great. Clarett began to receive offer letters from colleges and universities across the country and he started realizing that football was his way out of “the neighborhood”.
Clarett transferred high schools with the intention of obtaining recognition from top Division I football programs. Clarett knew that excelling in the classroom was equally as important as dominating on the football field, and was able to graduate high school in three and a half years. Shortly after graduating, Clarett made the decision to addend The Ohio State University in the spring of 2002, to get a jump-start on his education.
As the season approached, Clarett was the fourth string running back on the teams roster, but due to some injuries and opportunities that arose, Clarett would become the starting running back as a freshman. Clarret knew that pressure that was on his shoulders with this new found freedom away from home and made it clear that he did not succumb to drugs and alcohol stating:
“I wasn’t drinking, I wasn’t smoking, I wasn’t partying.” However, that would soon change.
After the first home game he ran for 475 yards and three touchdowns. He had become a minor celebrity in just one game. His friends from Youngstown learned of his success very quickly and they would play a significant part in his downfall that he never saw coming.
After the first game his friends came to visit and insisted that he join them at a party. Clarett did not want to disappoint his friends and elected to go out with them. Clarett was back to drinking, smoking, and partying just like that. It started to become a habit instead of an occasion. Jim Tressel, the Ohio State head football coach, at the time sat him down in his office and told him that all this partying and everything that came along with it had to stop. Clarett being the young ignorant man that he was thought he had it all under control and did not need any help.
After winning the National Championship in 2002, Clarett had decided to change scenery and fly to California. “It was not the typical Columbus, Ohio, where you party Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. In California you partied every day.” Clarett talked about how he was smoking and drinking every night and even before the combine. The combine is a showcase of the nations top college football players, which occurs before the National Football League (NFL) draft. He performed horribly and figured that he would never get the chance to be drafted and play in the NFL.
One evening while driving home he received a phone call from the Denver Broncos explaining that they would like to select him as one of their picks to be on their team. Clarett flew to Denver but slept through practice and therefore was cut from the team. Clarett was emotionally devastated upon his return to California, and began to party again. After so long though he would realize this is not what he wanted.
Once returning back home from California, he attempted to get his life back on track, but could not seem to avoid the negative influence of his friends. His life was spiraling out of control to the point when he would find himself caught in an armed robbery case that would lead to more unfortunate events.
One night would lead to the lowest point of his life. Clarett had been out drinking and decided to drive home. When he went to get off the exit he realized he had got off the wrong exit. Quickly making a U-turn to get back on the interstate, he did not see the police car there. They would turn on their lights and Clarett made a run for it. As he was driving to get away he called his mom and his now fiancé and told them what he had done, and that he was going to pull over with his AK-47 automatic rifle sitting next to him in the passenger seat. Clarett was going to have a shoot off with the police officers that were following him.
It was at this time during his speech that he talked about how he had reached this point in his life and how had it gotten so bad that this is what he was thinking of doing. The police called for backup to lay out the spike strip in the road causing Clarett to pull over and surrender.
This incident would land Clarett in prison for a period of time and while in prison he would learn all about business and entrepreneurship. He stated that he spent a lot of his time in the library reading. “The books were the ones they used at Harvard, so I was getting a Harvard education but without the certificate.”
After being in prison for three years and eleven months, he got the chance to play in the United Football League (UFL) in Nevada. Clarett only played for three years, because that was how long the UFL lasted. While out in Nevada he started his own business training young athletes. His business began with fifty kids and quickly turned into three hundred kids.
He then finally returned home to Ohio, he was asked one day to give a speech to high school students about his life. He was extremely nervous and did not know what he would talk about. He found out that the more you talk about your life the more you find out about yourself.
At the end of his speech he talked about how in life you are given all these opportunities and cannot let them slide by. He told us all that letting one little bad decision could snowball into many more bad decisions. Clarett opened my eyes that it is not only how you act, but who you surround yourself with.
As he stated in his speech, “Lebron and I were two of the biggest things in sports in the state of Ohio. The biggest difference between us was who we surrounded ourselves with.