The Tragic Climax To An 18-Year-Old Who Scored The Winning TD Against Miami

By Gregory Moore
Updated: August 12, 2006

SAN ANTONIO – This past Friday I wrote a quick opinion for Fox Sports Radio in regards to the issues that faced Maurice Clarett. I also went on FSR’s JT the Brick’s show to not only clarify my stance to but explain why I felt the way I did in that stance.

In my comments I wrote the following: “Many want to say that it was society, the NFL and even Ohio State that failed Maurice Clarett but in all honesty there are only a few people who failed him. The following people that failed this young man are the following: 1) His family 2) His “hangers on” folk 3) His lawyers and advisers 4) Past coaches and teachers that didn’t say no 5) MAURICE CLARETT Let’s take them in order.

1) His family failed him because instead of a family that looked at Clarett’s athleticism as a blessing and a tool that could put the young man on a better path than what they may have had, they tried to jump on his back and ride the fame that was fleeting.

When it came time for somebody to spank his behind for any wrongdoing or to be the voice of reason at a time when he probably needed, nobody stepped up to the plate.

2) When a person has talent and looks like they are about to leave the “hood”, there are people who want to ride that glory bus too. Like family members who are not looking out him, Clarett had a bunch of hanger on types in his life that were his friends when the times were good and plentiful.

3) His advisors and lawyers can take the blame for his failed NFL bid when he was just a freshman. I’ll even go so far as to say that even Hall of Famer Jim Brown can share some of this because he didn’t help this young man face the fight that was forthcoming back then.

Press conferences were given during this time when Maurice wanted to challenge the NFL but not one single advisor told him that he needed to be prepared for “Plan B”. In the eyes of these advisors and lawyers, there was no Plan B and was well as the intentions may have been, foresight was needed during a time when there was no road map for what at that time was a monumental court battle in sports.

4) How many teachers and coaches let this young man have things his way in school and life? How many of them did not be a roadblock in his life when he desperately needed one? Part of Clarett’s damaged psyche can come from the fact that even in the education process, nobody stood up to him and made him accountable.

Verbal tests in college, easy assignments during school, a nod here or a pat there, all of that is a contributing factor that I will give in the last person that failed this young man.

5) Ultimately the person that failed Maurice Clarett was…Maurice Clarett. It was Clarett who didn’t realize that he had a gift from the heavens inside his body and that it was his job to use those talents to the best of his ability.

It was Maurice who didn’t realize that even after being selected by the Denver Broncos last spring that he needed to be mature about his life and realize that he was just another football player who had a chance at making some good money playing a game he loved. Yet it was Maurice who also didn’t respect the game in which he loved.

Brent Barry said last year during the Spurs season that if a professional athlete doesn’t respect the game he plays, the game will come back and bite him in the ass, the foot and anywhere else it can take penance for the disrespect the athlete has given it.

In Clarett’s case he disrespected the game by not being in the best shape possible when it came to trying to win a court case. The disrespect came when he didn’t do well at the NFL combine two years in a row. The disrespect came when he didn’t take this job that somebody handed him seriously enough and try to make the Broncos roster.

Instead of Clarett respecting the game, he tried to use the game for his own personal gains at a time when he was qualified to take such action.

And now we have a young man who was at the pinnacle of the sports world some three years ago sitting in a county jail on $5 million bail. What is tragic is that once again nobody has stepped up and forced this young man to accept responsibility for any of his actions.

His lawyers are making excuses as to why he had three handguns and an assault rifle mere blocks away from a witness in his robbery trial. There are those who would rather make excuses to try and explain why Maurice has done what he did instead of confronting the problem head on and assessing the proper remedy for a conclusion to an ugly situation.

And when he needs all of those ‘friends’ to come around and help keep a level head, Clarett has no one to fall back on.

As tragic as this is, this is a stark reality that is repeated far too often in many Black communities where poverty and a warp sense of entitlement, hope and encouragement reign. We have watched this young man self destruct in front of our eyes and many of us who had a position to help him, failed him.

Is it our fault that this has happened? For those who should have been much sterner and willing to put a boot up his butt when he needed, probably so. But society didn’t fail him. His community didn’t fail him. Even some family members and friends didn’t fail him.

Ultimately the person who has caused this problem is Maurice himself. Luckily for him he made a U-turn when he did. At least this young man is alive to re-think his string of poor judgment calls. If it went on another hour, he may not be here for us to even write or speak on a ‘what if’ scenario.” It was that statement that prompted my appearance on JT’s show and we spent a good amount of time debating and/or agreeing on several aspects. Now JT had a problem with me listing Maurice as the fifth person on my list but wince I explained my stance, he understood why he had to be the fifth person.

And with the words that FSR’s Out of Bounds’ co-host James Washington gave just prior to my appearance, I think the national audience got an idea where two Black men were coming from on this topic.

But as I write this article on a Saturday morning, I had to go back into my Maurice Clarett archives and find an article that kind of showed exactly where this young man was PRIOR to last Wednesday’s climatic events of his second arrest in 2006. For that I went back and found the following paragraphs: “There’s no misunderstanding that this columnist despises everything that Maurice Clarett stands for. That disposition doesn’t come from the fact that I personally don’t know him. As a person, I don’t know Clarett or his family.

My disdain comes from the standpoint that a little over 23 months ago this young man was poised to be one of the best running backs in Ohio State history and instead of embracing that chance, he decided to listen to individuals who have inkling what the sports world is all about and that is including Hall of Famer Jim Brown.

As much as I respect Brown, sometimes I am really disturbed when he picks up causes that just pan out to being nothing but fool’s gold. Maurice Clarett’s attempts this past year to get into the NFL was just that; an attempt. Then add to the equation that Clarett has caused his former school to go through a rigorous NCAA investigation that proved that the school did nothing wrong and that it was Clarett who actually was the guilty party.

Now is the school blameless? Of course not. They had to show the NCAA that they were indeed clean and it gave them a chance to clean up whatever mess they had going on. Yet as many will remember, I wrote a story about how Clarett violated the NCAA handbook and that he should have known better.

But as we are now finding out, this young man is so far removed from reality that it’s downright embarrassing. His recent remarks to a national magazine like ESPN’s makes everyone in the Black community just cringe because there is already a polarization to begin with. Just what is that polarization?

The fact that the ‘man’ is always trying to trip up one of ‘our’ own. Let’s be frank for a moment on this subtopic. I’ve been writing about sports and Black athletes for almost a dozen years now and with many of those years dealing with this very issue.

There is no true polarization to speak of. There is ignorance of facts in the Black community. There is mistrust, misinformation and flat out denial by many who think that Black athletes deserve special privileges.

That is what I call the polarization between the media and the Black community. What Clarett has done, whether he knows it or not, is that he has simply added to this ‘myth’ and once again you have a segment of the Black community thinking that he has done nothing wrong and that he has basically played “Robin Hood” for himself.

An interesting concept to say the least.” – taken from the BASN article “Clarett, Artest Showcasing Their Skills At “Polarizing” A Community” that was published on November 17, 2004.

Now to refresh a little bit of history on why I never was in the Clarett camp. I never thought he was all that in college. When he was at Ohio State he played okay and in the Fiesta Bowl game against the “U” and Willis McGahee, Clarett just happened to score the winning touchdown in the game.

And that was the very last time we heard from him on the playing field. After that, we had a frenzy of folk and wannabe NFL insiders trying to feed us that Maurice Clarett could go as a top pick in the 2003 draft.

There was a court case. There was Hall of Famer Jim Brown trying to give validity to the cause. There was his mother standing by her son. There were so many people in that young man’s camp back then that you would have thought he was royalty or something.

But let’s fast-forward to 2004 and 2005 when he was allowed to go to the NFL combine. In 2004, he was overweight and looked slow. He embarrassed himself and pulled out within 72 hours. And yet there were still people trying to tell the sports nation that he could do this move and there were many of us who bit on that promise. Not this columnist. Not in 2004.

Then in 2005, he had a horrible showing again at the NFL combine and pulled out. Still when it came to the 2005 draft, he was picked on the third day when I thought he should have been a Sunday guy (rounds five or six). The Denver Broncos gave him a chance at redemption and picked him in the third. Mike Shanahan thought he could be the ‘savior’ of this young man.

Ultimately Clarett showed his true colors and the Broncos dismissed him without even thinking about his future. People thought it was cruel, heartless of the Broncos doing so. They thought that the NFL should try to find him employment. Not this writer and I said so as much when I penned the comments in an article that appeared on the BASN website on September 1, 2005 entitled “The Only Thing Surprising Is That Clarett Lasted This Long In Denver”.

In that column I wrote, “Clarett supporters need to ask themselves what chance were they expecting Clarett to get because if you look at what the Broncos did, they have him ample opportunity to step up and make the team. His work ethic on and off the field showed that of someone who either didn’t care because he was a national champion in college or figured he was too tough for his teammates.

Add to the huge ego problem the fact that he spent more time in a rehabilitation tub than on the field in pads and that he never showed that burning inside of football players who are trying to make a roster, and you now get the full brunt of why so many media writers, including myself, kept saying that Clarett will never be a featured running back at this level.

And for the Broncos, they weren’t missing him and really weren’t concerned. They figured if he didn’t care, they moved on without him.” I’ve probably written about six or seven articles on why Clarett wasn’t a viable NFL candidate. Over that span I’ve gotten at least a handful of e-mails saying that I should be wiling to help a black man and not tear him down.

As I have often responded back if the truth is tearing somebody down, then maybe that was because they never faced the truth in the first place. This is especially true in Clarett’s case now. As I continue to stay abreast of this story, I have read where his mother and girlfriend left the courtroom after a hearing on Friday with no comment.

That’s ironic because when her son was in the media spotlight and looked to have a glimmer of a chance at being this huge superstar, Mary Clarett was standing right next to her son and even speaking on why he should be in the NFL. And where are all of these so-called friends and advisers that were there during that time when the gravy train looked so plentiful?

Where are the hanger on people who wanted to ride the coat tails back in 2003 and 2004? Where are all of those supporters who e-mailed anyone who was against him trying to get into the NFL?

I’ll tell you exactly where they are. They are all sitting on their collective asses hoping nobody remembers who they are and effectively have abandoned Clarett when he needed true friends the most.

With that said, I can only surmise that ultimate person at the blame of all of his problems. When I look back at Clarett’s last game on a football field, what I saw was a scary situation. Somehow somebody got into this young man’s head and filled him with such illusions of grandeur that it fooled even the best people in the sports world.

It fooled some of the brightest minds that flocked to his aid. Heck it even got BASN’s Black Box to touting how Clarett was being used and that this very site should be supporting his cause.

Yet while everyone was at the circus during that time, a few of us writers realized that this young man might be headed down a dangerous path of self-destruction. Little did all of us know that last Wednesday was the day that our worst fears were brought to fruition.

I’ve never wanted anything negative to happen to Maurice Clarett. If anything I wanted him to face reality and understand that he had been sniffing the newsprint far too often when it came to how great he was. As James Washington said on the Brick’s show Friday night, “Clarett was just a freshman that scored the winning touchdown”. That’s all Maurice ever really did that was great in college football.

He did his job by scoring the game-winning touchdown in what was the biggest game of his career; at that time. But that didn’t entitle him to anything beyond that. Now his life is all but ruined. He may finally get his wish that he told Tom Friend of ESPN the Magazine by phone.

There are several people who are culpable in the demise of Maurice Clarett and as I stated in my release to the FSR affiliates on Friday, Clarett is ultimately the man who screwed up his life. But think about this for a moment.

How many of us actually thought that by scoring the winning touchdown against the University of Miami would lead you to be arrested on August 9, 2006 with four loaded weapons, a bullet proof vest and a bottle of Grey Goose Vodka?

Nobody expected a then 18-year-old to turn out to be the thug that he has been rightfully labeled.

Nobody expected that turn of events to spawn into something so catastrophic but it did and it came from a pod seed that was probably festering ever since Clarett showed promise on the field.

That’s probably a harsh assessment but at this point, it probably the only true assessment as to how his life could turn out so bad after such a promising beginning some three years ago.