What Could Have Been

By Bob Hunter
Updated: March 7, 2009

Maurice Clarett (circa 2000)

Maurice Clarett (circa 2000)

COLUMBUS, Oh. — Maurice Clarett is blogging from prison, which some Ohio State fans doubtless will find distressing.

To them, Clarett is the troublemaker they wish would go away, a football star who could have come back to school and helped lead the team to another national championship but instead tried to beat the system and ended up embarrassing the university.

Clarett really was one troubled young man in a world that is overrun with them, but some fans take this personally. When a man’s sins involve their favorite program, forgiveness doesn’t come easily.

After suing the NFL for a chance to turn pro after his freshman year and losing, after being involved in an academic scandal and suspended from the team for filing a false police report, Clarett’s 7 1/2 -year sentence for robbery, carrying a concealed weapon without a permit and resisting arrest was the last straw.

My suggestion for those who feel that way is a straightforward one: Read the blog — mauriceclarett.wordpress.com . The Mind of Maurice Clarett is a fascinating portrait of a guy who seems to realize what he lost and how he lost it, a man who is using his time in the Toledo Correctional Institution to look deep inside himself and find some good.

The athlete’s ego is still there — Clarett can’t magically erase all that adulation from memory — but his writings aren’t the ramblings of a loser who can’t seem to fathom why the world won’t give him a break.

He is taking courses from Ohio University and candidly admits surprise that he is enjoying them so much, and he professes a deep desire to help others avoid his fate.

Inmates don’t have computer access; his mother, Michelle Clarett, confirmed yesterday that he calls his blog entries to family members who post them for him.

The entries — a mixture of philosophy, advice, famous quotations and humor — started last October. From his Sunday entry, Maurice Clarett Comments on Blog Comments:

“Hate it or love it, I’m here to uplift and offer specific suggestions to people in life-altering situations. Pain and loneliness hurt. It births depression. It breaks families up. I don’t hide that part of my life. The things that I speak on are real. I’ve been in many different circumstances throughout these twenty-five years surviving things others could not. Surviving the game of life is drastically different than surviving the 4th quarter of the Fiesta Bowl. Remaining sane while being locked down twenty-three hours a day during the beginning of my incarceration built character and revealed to me what I was really made of. Respect me and the viewers of this blog by bringing something constructive and positive so someone else can possibly change their life.”

Only Clarett himself knows how much of his good intentions are just that; when he was at OSU, he often talked a better game than he lived. He said he played for the fans “sitting in section ZZ C99” who can only see “the top of our helmets.” He also once expressed concern for the homeless, worrying that “people are sleeping on sidewalks, and they’re giving us scholarships and they sell 100,000 tickets to every game.”

Clarett always has had a gift for PR; he was sentenced in September 2006 and as part of his plea bargain is eligible to apply for release after 3 years. So some of what he writes may be intended to grease the skids for a parole, another shot at the NFL or a career as a public speaker.

While he admits to the latter in his blog, his entries seem sincere and are thoughtful and intriguing. From Sovereign Being, posted last Saturday:

“It is easy to say that I messed up my life and show pictures while creating a story line for entertainment, but it does nothing for humanity as a whole. That’s good for water cooler conversation, but it does nothing for the young men who didn’t make it to the NFL and have no future in college and are looking to the streets for an outlet. News flash: Crime costs taxpayers’ money. If I can help a few young men make better decisions, then maybe America can save a few dollars. Time in prison was necessary due to my actions, but it’s my personal belief that I can use my celebrity to assist more people in so many creative ways that I’ve come up with than to occupy this cell at $25K per year.

“I enjoy giving to others what so many have given to me during this time away. Remember that when you mention Ohio State and you begin to mention some of the ‘greats,’ don’t forget to mention Maurice. 14-0 felt good and please remember that I closed the deal in the big game. The next deal I plan to close is that regarding my college education. Trust and believe, when I return to the Shoe I will leave with my degree.”