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Friday, December 14, 2012
Maurice Clarett makes life comeback

ESPN.com news services

Former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett boasted of making plenty of money in college and described a life of guns and drugs that landed him in prison after school, according to a book released recently.

Clarett is currently playing in the UFL for the Omaha Nighthawks, whose coach in 2011 was Joe Moglia. During training camp, Moglia instituted team dinners and had each player and coach take turns standing up and sharing his life story. Forbes' Monte Burke followed Moglia around for his book "4th and Goal: One Man's Quest to Recapture His Dream," and captured Clarett telling his story to his teammates.

Clarett's early life was dominated by football -- which he described as his first love -- trouble off the field, which included spending time in juvenile detention for breaking and entering. Despite that, he became a star running back in high school and ended up at Ohio State. 

According to excerpts of the book obtained by Deadspin, Clarett's double life continued there. He gained 175 yards and had three touchdowns in his first game in 2002 and helped lead the Buckeyes to the national championship. But he apparently wasn't living the typical life of a college student.

"I took golf, fishing, and softball as classes," Clarett said, according to the excerpt. "Away from class, anything you can think of, I did in my 13 months at Ohio State."

He described doing drugs and chasing women. He claimed to own three cars, including a new Cadillac and Lexus.

"I was living the NFL life in college," he said in the book. "I got paid more in college than I do now in the UFL."

His off-field issues eventually derailed his playing career, as Clarett was suspended for receiving improper benefits, then filing a phony police report claiming $10,000 in goods had been stolen from him. He tried to flee to the NFL, but league rules prevented him from entering the draft after just one year in college. He sued, but lost.

According to the book, he turned to drugs and alcohol. "I would ride around in my car carrying life sentences, with pounds of weed and bricks of cocaine," he said, according to the excerpt on Deadspin.

Nonetheless, he was drafted by the Broncos in 2005. Partying too much at night, he was cut before the end of training camp. Back in Columbus, Ohio, he says: "I was popping pills and getting paranoid. I was robbing everyone I knew."

He was arrested in 2006 for allegedly robbing a man at gunpoint. He tried to pay the man off, but it didn't work. He was headed to trial and faced time in prison.

A desperate Clarett drank half a bottle of vodka one night, according to the book excerpt, put on a bulletproof vest, grabbed a loaded assault rifle and three handguns and headed off to the man's house. He didn't make it there. A missed exit and U-turn resulted in his arrest and a seven-year prison sentence.

Clarett said that prison turned his life around. "I cleared my head, away from the drugs and drinking," he said, according to the excerpt on Deadspin. "Suffering causes you to mature."

He does not glorify prison.

"Contrary to popular belief, prison does not give you street cred. Anyone who glorifies it is an idiot," he said, according to the book. "It only lets your dumb ass know that you got caught doing something wrong."

Clarett said he read 150 books in prison, covering many classics, and started to study the financial markets. He started a blog on his life and was released early, in July 2010, for good behavior.

Clarett tried out for the Nighthawks a month later and made the team, despite not being in top shape. And then he was at the dinner in 2011, telling a story that silenced the room. He knows that it's a teaching moment.

"I don't want people to say, 'Don't be like Maurice Clarett,' " he said. according to the excerpt. "In fact, I want the opposite. I want people to see me now and say they want to be like me. And I'm working every day to earn that."