Can Maurice Clarett save face, career as a Hitman?
Suffice it to say that Maurice Clarett, the Mahoning Valley's fallen football hero, has made more than his fair share of blunders since gaining national sports stardom as running back for the national championship Buckeyes of Ohio State.
"I've made a lot of mistakes as a young man, and I've got to accept responsibility for that," he said recently.
But Clarett also vows that he's now a changed man. His intentions to sign with the Mahoning Valley Hitman, an Eastern Indoor Football League franchise to begin play in five months in the ThunderPlex complex in Vienna, will give him one last opportunity to prove himself.
It may very well be his last chance at redemption.
Chronology of woes
Things started to turn sour for Clarett and his fan base shortly after the Warren G. Harding High School graduate reached the pinnacle of his career as a star player on the Buckeyes' 2002 national championship football team. Since then, a string of personal losses and public embarrassments have haunted his every move:
UClarett was charged with falsification of a police report and was forced to sit out the 2003 Ohio State football season. He pleaded guilty to lesser charges in a plea deal.
UOhio State suspended Clarett in 2004 for misleading investigators and receiving special benefits worth thousands of dollars. Clarett had said coaches and boosters arranged for him to get passing grades, cars and thousands of dollars while at Ohio State. None of the allegations were verified.
UAfter dropping out of school, Clarett unsuccessfully challenged the NFL's requirement that players wait three years after high school before turning pro.
UClarett was selected by the Denver Broncos last year but was cut from the team before the season ever began.
UClarett was charged with two counts of aggravated robbery, four counts of robbery and one count of carrying a concealed weapon early this year. Authorities accuse him of flashing a gun and robbing two people behind a Columbus nightclub seven months ago. Just last week, his attorneys dropped him. His trial is scheduled Aug. 14.
Two scenarios for Maurice
Clearly, much rides on the outcome of that trial. If convicted, Clarett could face up to 25 years in prison, thereby killing any hint at a comeback, even on a fledgling minor league team. He then would be relegated to the long list of Mahoning Valley hotshots turned losers.
If found innocent, and we continue to adhere to the premise that all men are innocent until proven guilty, Clarett has a fighting chance to regain his image as a superlative football player.
Granted, that will not be easy. He will have to work hard at conditioning himself for regular play. He will have to work hard at maintaining the straight and narrow. And he will have to work hard at rebuilding his tattered fan base. In a recent poll by The Columbus Dispatch, nearly 80 percent of respondents said they would not pay to see Clarett play again at any level.
Clarett is confident that he will beat the rap and rebuild his image. We've heard similar mutterings from Maurice after previous transgressions, but this time likely will be the last time he will have a chance at recovering his career and his life. He cannot afford to fumble.