A decade ago, Maurice Clarett was one of the most promising athletes on earth. A freshman running back at Ohio State with otherworldly talent who helped the Buckeyes win a National Championship, his name was being whispered as a Heisman Trophy front-runner and a first found NFL Draft pick.
Then he tried to leave school early by suing the National Football League, got kicked out of school, did a lot of drugs, got drafted by the Denver Broncos, didn't make it all the way through training camp, got arrested several times, did time in an Ohio prison, got out, and finally played professionally in four games in the United Football League.
The NFL is no longer an option for the 29-year-old who once had the whole world in his hands. But, athletic ability ... freakish, natural athletic ability ... doesn't just go away.
Clarett is still a tremendous athlete. Now he's trying to apply it to a different sport.
Maurice Clarett has joined the Tiger Rugby Olympic Development Program in Columbus, OH. He says he wants to earn a spot on Team USA in 2016, when Rugby makes its debut as an Olympic medal sport in Rio.
Rugby is not an easy sport to learn. It's an even harder sport to play, especially in the Olympic 7's format, where conditioning is paramount. But, he has always been a gifted runner. At 5'11" and 225 pounds, Clarett has the speed of men 50 pounds lighter. Physically, he might be perfect.
The question is, can he handle it emotionally?
Clarett has been remorseful in the last couple of years. He says he's learned his lesson. Stories like this make he think about the Olympic Creed:
"The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."
Maurice Clarett has a chance to be the living example of that statement. Yes, his struggles have been self-inflicted. But in America we love a comeback story (see Hamilton, Josh). And there's no better comeback story than one that ends with a gold medal.