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ESPN film 'Youngstown Boys' puts Clarett, Tressel back in spotlight

Published: Wed, December 11, 2013 @ 12:10 a.m.


  The Boys are Back in Town

Ryan Buck discusses the ESPN film "Youngstown Boys", which puts Clarett and Tressel back in spotlight.

Ryan Buck discusses the ESPN film "Youngstown Boys", which puts Clarett and Tressel back in spotlight.

RELATED: TRESSEL & CLARETT | Relationship of 'Youngstown Boys' survives tough times

By Ryan Buck


From the time he graced the covers of newsstands as a high-schooler and devoured camera time on the news like he did defenders in his wake, Maurice Clarett always has demanded the center of attention.

For more than a decade, Mahoning Valley football fans and casual observers alike have devoted considerable time, perhaps spent hard-earned money and exhausted the full gamut of emotion in following the rise, the fall, and the rise again of the area’s biggest football phenom in a generation.

Clarett says the city of Youngstown is the essence of who he is as a person and a foundation for his story.

“It means a lot to me to have that emotional connection,” Clarett said during a conference call Tuesday afternoon. “I fell in love with the spirit, the motivation and pain. I internalized it. It made me into what I was.”

On Saturday night, the city’s prodigal son makes his return to the spotlight as the subject of ESPN Films’ 30 for 30 production “Youngstown Boys,” a film by director brothers Jeff and Michael Zimbalist.

The documentary traces Clarett’s story beginning with images of a powerfully built, yet fleet-of-foot running back carrying the football for Warren Harding High School and Ohio State. It also moves through years of Clarett and confidants seen at the center of controversy, and later crime.

What began as a psychological case study inside the mind of the enigmatic, yet cerebral Clarett transformed into what the producers deemed a dual narrative of hometown heroes Clarett and his mentor and college coach, Jim Tressel.

When Clarett, who had long since discontinued a relationship with his father, leveraged his football talents into scholarship offers from every major college in America, he sought out Tressel.

The charismatic coach had turned Youngstown State’s football program into a national powerhouse and had earned the job at Ohio State in early 2001.

In Tressel he found a role model and confidant, perhaps a father figure he felt was absent in his life. The pair from Youngstown helped take the college football world by storm.

Jeff Zimbalist, a western Massachusetts native, noted the importance of the game and its heroes upon visiting the community, which is still struggling to reverse an economic decline that began with the collapse of the steel industry decades ago.

“We spent a lot of time there,” Zimbalist said. “I really didn’t know Youngstown. I didn’t know or have an understanding. It’s a picture of American society that’s prevalent throughout the old manufacturing sector. Football’s a different ball game in Ohio. It’s not just sports fans. They knew Maurice’s statistics going back to pee-wee football. He was a household name.”

The city of Youngstown and its football tradition will — alongside two of its most prominent figures — be on center stage as Clarett intended.

“The city continued to support me when I was down,” Clarett said. “I want to pay homage to my hometown and put us on the map — on a national scale.”


1Irishtiger(49 comments)posted 1 year, 3 months ago

Tressel was in trouble at YSU and osu knowingly hired him. But bright days are ahead for Jim ann urban meyer, who had numerous problems and player incarcerations at Florida, will eventually make Tressel look like the Pope.

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2YtownSports(256 comments)posted 1 year, 3 months ago

Clarett unfortunately fell under the influence of his mother rather than his father who had a much more realistic and practical view of the world Maurice was in and headed into. As a result, Maurice's life was impacted by increasingly bad decisions. He wasted his talent and the opportunities it might have created for him.
Jim Tressel was not the saint his public image made many believe, but he did give the Youngstown area a tremendous boost in pride and cohesiveness when they were so badly needed. He helped a lot of young men along the way and donated countless hours (and later significant dollars) to the community and Y.S.U.
I'm looking forward to finding out how the program balances all the positives and negatives.

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3Dagwood(226 comments)posted 1 year, 3 months ago

I blame Cardinal Mooney for his downfall. The kid lived on the southside (could have walked to school) and just because they wouldn't play him as a freshman he left for Fitch and then eventually WGH.

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4walter_sobchak(2055 comments)posted 1 year, 3 months ago

Yes, at the time, the word was Clarett's father told Don Bucci that Maurice would only attend Mooney if he could play as a freshman. That was something Bucci would not permit and you certainly would not dictate team policy to a championship-caliber coach. So, there you have it. Don Bucci forced Maurice to make all of the poor decisions that led to a life of criminal activity and incarceration.

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5TERRAPINST(319 comments)posted 1 year, 3 months ago

I do not watch sports for moral clarification. I like to see my teams win because that is the goal. Tressel and Clarett did that. Would certainly love to have them back and whatever RUMORS there are about Tressel, which is the majority of what is usually posted here, he had one documented mistake and paid dearly for it. A ridiculous penalty for a winner who did nothing but support this community which he continues to do. Again, wish he was the YSU head coach now.

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6papa1(703 comments)posted 1 year, 3 months ago

people hoping tressel comes back to ysu are dreaming. after making 3 mil per year he's not coming back here. besides after he resigned (was fired) he had to wait five years to coach at the d-1 level and that's not up yet. after what he did he may have a hard time getting back at that level, but I doubt ysu is tempting for him now.

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7dontbeafool(1272 comments)posted 1 year, 3 months ago

nobody is perfect.The good Mr. Tressel has done and continues to do for this community and the youth here locally far outweighs the mistake(s) he has made. I still believe he is a class act.

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