Oh, no, Mo!

By Walik Edwards
Updated: January 2, 2006

CALIFORNIA—I’ve been hanging on to this one since the NFL preseason. Since I went to the Los Angeles Coliseum to watch 30-plus rookies get their football cards created, the only person that stuck out was Maurice Clarett.

I learned from my encounters with the former Ohio State running back was that there were a lot of issues beyond just chomping at the bit to play in the NFL.

There was also the justification that all of those people who “advised” him on leaving school early and waging battle in the courts to get NFL eligibility were dead wrong.

I jumped off the Jim Brown bandwagon a long time ago, and his leading the “Mo Should Go” campaign for Clarett was as haphazard as it was scary. To them, it was all about the NFL prohibiting the young man his opportunity to rightful employment.

Double shame came when fomer USC receiver Mike Williams entered the fray, following the blind into the abyss. I could not feel sorry for Williams because the urge to live out a dream is a pull that cannot be fought off, but looking at who was leading the charge, he should have known better.

It became more of a civil rights issue than anything, and with hindsight being 20/20, it was a blessing that the courts sided with the NFL, and made Clarett wait until this past season to become officially eligible for the draft.

Most black media outlets jumped on the bandwagon as well, because here was a cause that made sense to them. Not the fact that the boy was obviously not long for school, and could not represent himself well in a conversation, but he was a young black man getting a raw deal.

Those are just opinions, I’ll live and die with – but then there is the reality of my experiences with Maurice Clarett for a weekend, and why my thoughts have now graduated into nightmares.

My first experience with Clarett came with Miami Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown being called away for some photos, and me being left alone at a table with the new Denver Broncos tailback.

“Yo, my brother. It’s hot out here,” he said to me.

I told him it was my second year out here, and it was even worse then. L.A. in the middle of the summer is not a good time to be on a football field in pads.

In a statement peppered with the f-word, he said that he was ready to get out of there, and I couldn’t blame him – like I said, it was hot.

I even joked and told him that I would do his photos with a helmet on. He laughed, and we were off and running.

Just then, a stadium worker walked by our table, and he had his cell phone hanging from his hip. Clarett asked him if he could use the phone, and the worker, looking a bit frightened, ripped the phone off his hip and gave it to him.

Clarett dialed his intended number a few times before saying, “This don’t dial out!” It was a walkie-talkie phone for the workers to communicate with, but the worker was so intimidated that he neglected to let Clarett know this fact, and Clarett returned the phone in disgust.

Clarett then picked up a paper cutter that was left on the table, and began slicing away at the tablecloth. “This ain’t sharp enough. It should be cutting the (blank) out of this (blank)!”

The worker was just about to pass out because of his fear of Clarett, and I began to think that the NFL was probably the worst place Maurice Clarett should be, and Denver coach Mike Shanahan did this kid a serious disservice – but in his defense, he probably got his lowdown from all of Clarett’s “advisors” and enough people had been snowed by those folks already.

His highlight was taking a cart and driving it around, spilling fresh fruit all over the field, and not picking it up.

The next day I watched Clarett attempt to duck the card company because he didn’t want to take pictures.

As much as I know about hearing professional football players talk about the preseason camp experience, it’s a lot more work than having to walk up 20 concrete stairs, and stand in a tunnel and take a bunch of shots to make a football card – an experience the other players, outside of Pac Man Jones, relished.

Clarett treated the photographers with contempt, and the situation with him got worse, as during my interviews with the other players, his name came up without me mentioning him.

Most of the other players made it their business to avoid him – some out of fear, and others because they thought he was weird.

Hearing that he sat out the majority of the preseason with an injury didn’t surprise me – and his subsequent cut from the Broncos was more tragic than anything because Maurice Clarett, didn’t have anything but football keeping him from more tragedy.

Hopefully when he is located, new people will come to his assistance.

That stadium worker is probably thinking he doesn’t have it so bad after all.