Ohio State Fans: Do You Forgive Maurice Clarett?

Russell WightAnalyst IAugust 10, 2009

TEMPE, AZ - JANUARY 3:  Freshman running back Maurice Clarett #13 of the Ohio State Buckeyes takes in the BCS Championship victory over the University of Miami Hurricanes in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium on January 3, 2003  in Tempe, Arizona.  Ohio State won the game 31-24 in double-overtime, winning the NCAA National Championship.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

In the world of football, Maurice Clarett is an old man. 

At 25 years of age, Clarett has very little chance making a living as a professional football player after he is released from prison.  However, he does have the opportunity to turn his life around.

Perhaps he has already turned his life around?  The saga that is Maurice Clarett continues to be a sensitive subject in Columbus, Ohio.  Are Buckeye fans ready to welcome him back as part of the family?  Would Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel consider allowing him to speak/offer advice to young players? 

So, Buckeye fans, I have a question.  Do you forgive Maurice Clarett?

First, let's recap the last seven years.

In August 2002, Clarett was listed as the Ohio State starting running back.  It marked the first time a freshman started at that position since 1943.

In November of that same year, he helped the Buckeyes defeat Michigan by rushing for 119 yards and scoring a touchdown.  The victory secured Ohio State a spot in the Fiesta Bowl against Miami.

Before the bowl game, he publicly ripped Ohio State officials for not allowing him to fly home to attend a friend's funeral.  He also accused school administrators of lying when they said Clarett did not file the paperwork for emergency financial aid to pay for the flight.

On January 2, 2003, Clarett scored the winning touchdown in double-overtime against Miami in the Fiesta Bowl.  The victory secured Ohio State's first national championship in 34 years.

The summer of 2003 is when the real problems started. 

In July, The New York Times quoted a teaching assistant at Ohio State who said Clarett got preferential treatment in class.  Later that month, Ohio State confirmed that the NCAA was investigating that more than $10,000 worth of cash and items were stolen from a car he borrowed from a local dealership.

A bad situation turned worse in September when Clarett was charged with misdemeanor falsification for the police report concerning the theft.  The next day, Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger announced that Clarett had received benefits and thousands of dollars from a family friend and was suspended for the season. 

Seeing his college career fall apart, Clarett decided to sue the NFL, challenging the rule that a player must be three years removed from high school to enter the draft.

In the first months of 2004, things looked like they might be turning around.  Clarett plead guilty to a lesser charge regarding the theft report he falsely filed the year before.  He paid a $100 fine and did not serve any jail time.  Clarett was also ruled eligible for the NFL draft by a U.S. District Judge in New York.

However, the little good fortune would soon run out. 

The ruling was put on hold by a federal appeals court, with the NFL arguing it would not be fair to a team that picked Clarett if he were later ruled ineligible.  Clarett filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to intervene.  A second emergency appeal was denied.  The Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Clarett would have to wait until 2005 to enter the draft.

Things were quiet until November 2004, when ESPN The Magazine published an article in which Clarett accused Tressel and his staff of providing him with passing grades, cars, and money for summer "jobs."

In April 2005, Clarett was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the third round of the NFL draft.  He was cut by the Broncos in late August after missing most of the preseason with a groin injury.

Up until this time, all problems concerning Clarett were related to his own situation or Ohio State.  His own football career had been put in jeopardy.  It appeared that he was going down and attempted to take Jim Tressel and Ohio State with him.

Beginning in January 2006, "Maurice Clarett the football screw-up" became "Maurice Clarett the dangerous criminal." 

He was accused of robbing two people in an alley behind a Columbus bar. In August, he was arrested after refusing to pull over after a traffic violation.  Police found three handguns and an AK-47 assault rifle in the vehicle Clarett was driving.  The former Buckeye was wearing a bulletproof vest and was stopped less than a mile away from one of the robbery victims.

On September 18, 2006, Clarett plead guilty to aggravated robbery and carrying a concealed weapon.  He was sentenced to three and a half years in prison.

Clarett is currently an inmate at the Toledo Correctional Institution.  He filed a request for pardon in April of this year but has since withdrawn the application.

Since being locked away, Clarett has offered insight into his mind through a blog.  He appears to be a changed man.  He comes off as an insightful young man, not the arrogant teenager he once was. 

Does he deserve a second chance?

At football? 

Clarett's problems at Ohio State were embarrassing for the university and football program.  If Coach Tressel extends his arms and welcomes Clarett to a practice, so be it.  Who am I to second guess "The Vest?"

At life? 

When Clarett was pulled over with enough firepower to make Tony Montana jealous, he endangered everyone in Columbus.  I have often driven to work through the area in which he was finally arrested.  At an obviously mentally unstable moment, he is very lucky that nobody got hurt.

Has he paid his debt to society?  Has he paid a debt to Ohio State?  Did he have to pay a debt to Ohio State?

So, Buckeye fans and haters, please answer my question.  Do you forgive Maurice Clarett?


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