VAN WERT – Before Ohio State played Miami for the football national championship in 2002, the allegation that OSU did not care enough about the academic life of its athletes was the center piece of an angry rant by standout running back Maurice Clarett.
Monday, when Clarett spoke to a student assembly at Vantage Career Center, it wasn’t until a question-and-answer session after a nearly one-hour speech that he addressed the subject of colleges needing to do more academically for athletes. And he did it without any of the rancor and fireworks of 2002.
The things he says and how he says them are not the only changes Clarett has made since 2002.
After going from star to pariah to prison, Clarett has reinvented himself as an attentive parent to an 8-year-old daughter, a pubic speaker and a small businessman.
One of his favorite parts of this reinvention is speaking to groups, mainly young people, about how to avoid the pitfalls he mostly brought down on himself.
Clarett looked like he had a future in the NFL when he rushed for 1,237 yards and 18 touchdowns for Ohio State’s 2002 national champion team.
Back then, he played angry. He partied angry. And he preached angry.
“When I was young I had the Mike Tyson mentality. I was like a UFC fighter on the football field,” Clarett said. “I had a bigger ego than everybody in this room combined. I thought I ran the whole state of Ohio.”
His OSU career lasted only one year, though, when it was found he received improper benefits and lied to the NCAA during an investigation. And his NFL career never happened.
After being drafted in the third round by the Denver Broncos, he admits he went to training camp unprepared and out of shape and was cut before the regular season began.
A robbery in the early hours of New Year’s Day 2006 outside a Columbus bar that netted him only a few dollars and a cell phone, followed by being stopped seven months later with a loaded assault rifle, a bullet proof vest and a bottle of Grey Goose vodka in his car on I-270, resulted in a 7-year prison sentence.
It was during his three years in the Toledo Correctional Institute that Clarett says he turned his life around.
He says he began reading in prison, the first time he had ever been interested in academics. And he went through classes to address anger management and other issues. Until then, he had rebuffed offers of help dealing with his problems.
He says he emerged from prison a changed man. Besides his public speaking, he owns a packaging company in Columbus and is engaged to the mother of his daughter.
Choosing a new path has made him happier than he was when he was younger.
“As crazy as it sounds, I’m happy with how it turned out,” Clarett said. “I’m totally happy with where I am in life now. I’m living my second chance.”
He is also scheduled to speak at the WORTH Center in Lima on Wednesday.