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Established October 31, 1996
Front Page Columns and Features
Last updated: 08/31/2010 2:06 PM
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Football
Former Buckeye RB Maurice Clarett Signs with UFL Team
By Brandon Castel

As it turns out, Maurice Clarett’s return to Ohio State was short-lived, but not for the wrong reasons.

Maurice Clarett
Photo by John Porentas
Nathan Williams

Nearly a month after the former Buckeye star returned to Columbus following a three-and-a-half year stint in prison, the 26-year old running back signed a contract with the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League Monday.

“I am humbled by the opportunity the Omaha Nighthawks have given me and will dedicate myself on and off the field to prove that I can be a valuable member of the team and the Omaha community,” Clarett said in a statement.

“I am committed to working hard to earn the right for a second chance in football and more importantly in life.”

Clarett’s first chance was filled with wasted opportunities.

A high school All-American at Warren Harding, Clarett was the offensive firepower for Jim Tressel’s BCS National Championship team as a freshman in 2002. He was a Heisman Trophy hopeful heading into his sophomore season, but that’s when it all started to fall apart. He lost his eligibility, his case against the NFL and eventually his freedom after he was arrested on charges of armed robbery.

None of that seems to have scared away UFL Commissioner Michael Huyghue.

“I met with Maurice Clarett today and additionally reviewed all of the reports surrounding his circumstances,” Huyghue said Monday.

“I support allowing his return to football and believe he will make the most of this opportunity with the Omaha Nighthawks.”

One of the best running backs in the country as a freshman in 2002, Clarett racked 1,237 yard and 18 touchdowns in just 11 games for the Buckeyes. Two years later he was taken in the third round (No. 101 overall) of the 2005 draft by Mike Shanahan and the Denver Broncos, but he never played a down in the NFL. He washed out of the league before the start of the regular season, but that didn’t stop him from drawing interest from professional teams five years later.

“People called us before he even brought it up to me,” Tressel said Monday at his weekly press conference.

“He was always in working out just because he was in school and he wanted to be in a positive environment and all that. All of a sudden people started calling us and I would take him his phone messages. And I think he kind of felt good that there was some interest.”

Clarett had re-enrolled at Ohio State in July after his release with the intention of completing his degree in Consumer and Family Financial Services. A repentant Clarett said his main goal was not to be “a distraction or nuisance to the football team or to students on campus,” and current OSU linebacker Brian Rolle confirmed that the once out-spoken Clarett has largely kept to himself over the last month.  He spent time at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center working out and hoping for another shot at the game.

“I think it's probably something that he thought about and that he missed and that he knows it's short-lived,” Tressel said.

“The older you get, it's even shorter-lived.”

Clarett will participate in his first team practice on Monday, August 30.  He will not be available to media following practice on Monday evening, but will be available to talk to media on Wednesday, September 1 following the team’s 8.45am to 11.15am morning practice session at the Kroc Center in Omaha.

“The team and I are excited to have Maurice Clarett join the Nighthawks family,” said Nighthawks head Coach Jeff Jagodzinski, who served as the head coach at Boston College from 2007-08.

“He will be treated just like every other player on the roster and will be expected to perform to the best of his abilities both on and off the field.”

Clarett joins an expansion Omaha team that already includes a host of familiar names, including four-time NFL Pro Bowlers Jeff Garcia and Ahman Green. Other noteworthy names amongst Clarett’s new teammates include former Penn State quarterback Anthony Morelli and former Wisconsin defensive tackle Wendell Bryant.

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