Mother basks in son's success
She talks to him almost every day and attended all but two games this season.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Michelle Clarett's favorite memory of her son didn't come from a newspaper article, a highlight show or even on the football field.
It came at a junior high AAU basketball game six years ago.
"It was a tournament game and the coach wasn't feeling well," Michelle, the mother of Ohio State standout freshman Maurice Clarett, said. "So he taught the other kids the plays he knew, coached and played in the game and they ended up winning.
"It was the most remarkable thing I've ever seen him do. Of course, his career's not over yet."
Maurice Edward Clarett was born Oct. 29, 1983 to Myke and Michelle Clarett. His middle name comes from her father. He has two older brothers, Michael and Marcus, so when it came time to name him, she looked for a familiar first letter.
"I just wanted another 'M'," she said with a laugh.
Maurice was a standout athlete on the South Side of Youngstown for most of his life, but it wasn't until Thom McDaniels came to Warren Harding his junior year that he started fulfilling his full potential.
Over the past 14 months, Maurice has been named Ohio's Mr. Football and the USA Today Offensive Player of the Year, became the first Ohio State freshman to start the first game at tailback, broke the freshman running record and appeared on the covers of Sports Illustrated and ESPN: The Magazine en route to becoming a national phenomenon.
Through it all, Michelle has been there. She talks to him almost every day and attended all but two games this season -- Illinois and Wisconsin.
"The entire season has been a highlight," she said. "But the biggest one for me was when he stepped on the field and started the first game. That was just an extraordinary day. I still remember the smile on his face."
Michelle, who works at Youngstown's clerk of courts office as an assistant to Sarah Brown Clark, flew to Arizona on Wednesday. Like everyone else, she wasn't prepared for all the attention her son received this year, but has tried to keep it in perspective.
"It's been enjoyable, but at the same time there's been some pros and cons," she said. "It's great for him as far as representing the community and the school, but I have to make sure he stays grounded."
One of the downsides has been some of the negative attention from fans and the media -- especially after the ESPN article revealed that Maurice was thinking about leaving for the NFL after his freshman year.
"The negative things take a toll and it's hard for me to hear it as a parent and I know how my son feels when he says he's sad," she said. "But I don't want to focus on the negative because there's been so many positive things said and written about him."
Michelle reads several newspapers each day, and often enjoys her son's comments.
"Sometimes I'll even sit and giggle," she said.
She's also encouraged by the positive response from the community.
"So many people have come up to me and said they're pulling for him and praying for him," she said. "They say he's an inspiration and I'm just overjoyed when I hear that.
"There's a lot of bad things about this area, but there's a lot of great people who come out of this area and people forget that. Youngstown has always had stars, but you don't always get to share them."
The past weeks have been hectic for her. Maurice couldn't come home for Christmas because of the bad weather, so she visited him at his Columbus apartment. She worked up through Tuesday and has found herself more popular than usual.
"Everybody wants his signature or extra tickets," she said with a laugh.
She's also asked about his injured shoulder.
"It's fine and he's rearing to go," she said.
And while she's going to enjoy the Fiesta Bowl experience no matter what, there is one thing she wants.
"A big fat 'W'," she said.