Youngstown Boys Reveals Hidden Side of Clarett
By Rob Ogden
Ohio State fans have long since locked away the memories of Maurice Clarett. They've stored them somewhere where dust piles up as quickly as the years have passed.
Saturday, those memories will finally be revisited.
Following the presentation of the Heisman Trophy Saturday night, ESPN Films will debut "Youngstown Boys" a 30 for 30 film detailing "the interconnected journey and evolving relationship of two former Ohio State stars — RB Maurice Clarett and coach Jim Tressel."
It's a fitting — maybe ironic — time slot for the film when wondering what could have been for Clarett.
The onetime superstar running back isn't worried about what could have been howver, only about what is.
"This is my life. This is my reality," Clarett said. "It just told my story. I wasn't looking for it to accomplish anything. It's not a football story, but just a story about life."
Perhaps, but football is a big part of Clarett's story.
As a freshman in 2002, he rushed for 1,237 yards and 18 touchdowns in likely the greatest season ever by an Ohio State rookie and led the Buckeyes to a 14-0 season and a national championship.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Several troubling incidents followed. He was suspended for his sophomore season by the NCAA, was denied entry into the NFL draft and ultimately arrested when he was pulled over on the freeway and found in possession of multiple loaded weapons.
The film follows all of these events, from the Buckeyes' championship win over Miami in the Fiesta Bowl to Clarett's arrest, conviction and finally redemption.
Tressel is featured prominently in the film, but its focus is Clarett. The former Ohio State coach said he was happy to participate.
"When Maurice first called me, he said, 'They're doing a story about my life. The good parts, the not-so-good parts, the lessons I've learned, would you be willing to go on camera and give some comments?' I said "Well of course, but you know I'm going to tell the truth.' "
Tressel was an integral part, because at its core, the film is about the father and son relationship between player and coach.
Clarett grew up without a father figure in his life, and leaned on Tressel to fill that void when he arrived at Ohio State.
"I never knew about male role models until Tressel," Clarett said. "That's what he does. He cares more about the human side of the guy. Football is football, but long after that you live life. A lot of these guys lack fatherly leadership."
Though Clarett admitted to at times straying from his coach's advice, he said they have remained "very close." Tressel said he maintains a great relationship with Clarett.
"It's always been great," Tressel said. "We've disagreed but I've always felt he had a heart to help other people. Sometimes we get off course, but I don't think his heart has changed. I think his mind has caught up to his heart.
"He'll be the first to tell you that he's grown a great deal. He's got a passion for making a difference in a lot of people's lives."
Following his suspension, Buckeye fans quickly turned on Clarett. Tressel said maybe the film will show the once-worshiped running back in a different light. Maybe it will give them a reason to dust off the old memories.
Clarett, however, isn't worried about perception.
"I wasn't looking to do this for Buckeye nation or to win someone over," he said. "It transcends sports.
"I used to envision moments like this when I was prison, to have the opportunity to influence and to inspire people."
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