Do you remember Maurice Clarett? The great running back at Ohio State, who rushed for 18 TD's in '02 and was a major contributor for the Buckeyes the '03 National Championship team. If you don't, I can't blame you, because he fell off the map very quickly after his great season. Due to many legal troubles, including being jailed for the past 3.5 years, his football career floundered. But now he's back, and it's a good comeback story.
His 2002 season was great, including scoring the winning TD in the Fiesta Bowl, rushing for 1,237 yards (a school rushing record for freshmen), and stealing the ball away from Sean Taylor, who had just intercepted a Craig Krenzel pass. But, his off seasons were more notable than his one season on the gridiron. He was suspended for the entire '03 season after filing a false police report, and was dismissed for taking financial benefits. He tried to get into the 2004 NFL draft by suing the league, but that failed, and he was drafted by the Broncos in '05 in the 3rd round at pick 101. He failed to impress in the preseason, and shocked critics by even being drafted at all, and as high as he was, but was released without playing a game. It was sad to see such a good running back falling so far as he did. He was the best running back in college football and fell so far. But his legal troubles dropped him even further.
He was arrested two times in 2006, once for robbery, and another for leading the police on a car chase, and having loaded guns and open alcohol in his car. He was sentenced for 7.5 years in jail, but could apply for release after 3.5 years, which is now. He has been blogging about his prison experiences for awhile, and in a recent post, he said, "Understand my struggle so you can respect my hustle. I am never coming back here, believe that. Never, I am cool on this. It is first-class living from the day I get out. I WILL NEVER SETTLE FOR LESS, EVER AGAIN." And with this drive and determination, he was signed yesterday by the Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL. This is great for all football. This is because it shows how you can come back from the brink, to back on the football field, with the goal to change his life, and all people can learn from his drive and determination.
America is the country of second chances, and it seems football is the sport of second chances now. Donte Stallworth, Michael Vick, Ricky Williams, and plenty others have done the same thing, so why can't Clarett? Yes, he hasn't played a true football game in almost 7.5 years, but that doesn't mean he can't try again. If he can keep his life in order, then this will be a great comeback story, even if he is in the UFL (better than the CFL I suppose). He needs to show his devotion to head Coach Jeff Jagodzinzki, GM Rick Mueller, and the whole UFL, and if he does that, he could one day make it back to the NFL, as he is only 26. "I am committed to working hard to earn the right for a second chance in football and more importantly in life." Clarett said on Monday when he was signed. Rick Mueller believes he deserves a second chance, and so should everyone.
If Clarett keeps himself out of trouble and plays well, and uses his mentor, former Packers back Ahman Green, for all the help he needs, and the UFL wants him to have, then this can be a successful comeback. Vick, Williams, and to a lesser extent Stallworth (despite his broken foot), have all done well in changing their lives around so that they can play football, even if Vick and Stallworth haven't been successful on the field. This is an example that players, and everyone else who suffer major problems in their lives should take after. Devotion, commitment, and passion can set your life straight, with a bit of help. This is a great story for football, even if it is under the radar. John Anderson compared Clarett to a comet on last night's sportscenter. His points of fading and white-hot importance have come and gone, and now he's back on the trail to being "white-hot" again. He's coming back into the football world, and I'm happy to see him back.