When it comes to professional sports, most people don’t get second or third chances….or fourth and fifth chances like Maurice Clarett. After being dismissed from Ohio State University in 2003, the Youngstown native has continued to blow opportunity after opportunity in his football comeback attempts. That said, he’s chosen to vacate the football world and make his comeback in a different sport this time around.
Clarett, who last played for the United Football League’s Omaha Nighthawks, has recently been training at the Tiger Rugby Academy in Columbus, Ohio. The idea here is that the 29-year-old hopes to make the Olympic rugby team in time for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
So how is his plan working out so far? Well, according to Tiger Rugby coach Paul Holmes, Clarett’s transition is going great. Holmes said, “He’s ridiculous. That’s all I can say. His footwork is phenomenal. He’s nowhere near conditioned for rugby, but that will come….the stuff he’s doing in the gym right now, he’s just ridiculous.”
To hear Holmes talk, you’d think he was describing the Clarett from the 2002 BCS champion Ohio State football team – a true freshman who catapulted himself onto the national stage after rushing for 1,237 yards and 18 touchdowns in 11 games. Instead, he’s describing the guy who – just three years ago – was in prison for fighting with police after being caught with a cache of weapons that included an AK-47, a katana sword, two handguns and Kevlar body armor.
Considering Clarett’s three-and-a-half-year prison stint and lengthy rap sheet, it’s quite interesting to see him back in the sports world again. As mentioned in the introduction, most people don’t get second and third chances in the world of pro sports. Of course, most people don’t keep trying to give themselves these opportunities either and often fade away after one or two failures.
Clarett obviously isn’t ready to quit on sports just yet. In fact, he seems quite serious about his initial foray into rugby and one day making the Olympic team. The former Buckeyes star made the following statement about his latest endeavor:
My ultimate goal is to become an Olympian, absolutely. You take yourself as a student, like you would be in football. I started off at home watching YouTube videos. You watch guys who are in front of you, who are better than you, and you try to mimic them. I’ve never played rugby, I’ve always watched it and been intrigued by it, because I thought it resembled football in a lot of ways. I have ventured over to something that is very physical, very fast, very like football.
It certainly sounds like Maurice Clarett is focused on Rio right now. However, the real test will be sticking with the task and staying out of trouble – two things which haven’t always been his forte. Every time he tried to make a comeback in football, there was always some side incident or distraction preventing Clarett from accomplishing his goal.
But switching to a positive note, if Maurice can become a rugby success and make the Olympics, he’ll no doubt bring widespread attention to a sport which the United States largely ignores. Truth be told, most Americans don’t even know the US has an Olympic team – let alone know what a drop kick or scrum is. But if Clarett can become any sort of a primetime player in the game, it’ll be interesting to see how many fans he brings along with him.