- The Washington Times - Friday, August 11, 2006

Maurice Clarett believed he was destined to be the LeBron James of the NFL.

He believed in the fantasy of the NFL, the fairy tale, the hype and hustle.

He ignored the hard facts of the NFL, the unyielding nature of a sport that requires large men to ram their pumped-up bodies into one another. He ignored the fact that running backs have the shelf life of milk and that today’s star is tomorrow’s injury note in small type.

Clarett was planning to be somebody, although all he ever has been is a knucklehead who had a brief fling with success while on layover at Ohio State.

He turned on the Ohio State football program, the athletic director and the university in pursuit of what he imagined was his divine right to be wealthy and famous in the NFL.

He left after one season at Ohio State, left after scandalizing the university, left after reports of grade-fixing and receiving improper gifts.

Clarett threw away an education and what possibly could have been a storied collegiate career. He threw it all away because he believed in the messages being planted into his head.

He wanted the lifestyle of a star, the fancy car and the swank digs. He wanted a wad a cash in his pocket and a throng of enablers at his side. He imagined it all could be his.

And now he is merely a human wreck that allows the nation’s sports scribes to go, “My, my.”

He sits in a jail cell in Columbus, Ohio, today following a run-in with police in the wee hours Wednesday. He was subdued with Mace after a chase was prompted by his erratic driving.

Officers found four guns in his sport utility vehicle and a half-empty bottle of vodka.

Clarett was nabbed near the home of a witness preparing to testify against him in a robbery charge stemming from Jan. 1.

The last time an ex-running back was involved in a police chase, O.J. Simpson was carrying a gun, a fake beard and $10,000 in cash.

That is the comparison Clarett draws now.

Clarett has larger problems than a squandered football career. He is looking at losing his freedom, and that undoubtedly is a good thing for someone so lost, so out of it, so devoid of personal responsibility.

His bond was set at $5 million, which, of course, his attorney deemed too high.

“We’re very confident there was no intent to harm anyone,” the attorney said.

That is easy for the attorney to say, so long as he is not in the passenger seat of an SUV being navigated by someone packing four guns, wearing a bulletproof vest, in possession of a bottle of vodka and already facing a robbery charge.

If Clarett does not qualify as a threat to society, then who does?

His robbery trial begins Monday, and the rest of his life probably begins in the distant future.

He was planning to play in something called the Eastern Indoor Football League this January, with a team called, no lie, the Hitmen.

That is where Clarett’s so-called football career was before his gun-toting forays engulfed him. His so-called career was a tiny step up from a flag-football league.

Clarett earned a cup of coffee with the Broncos last summer but could not grasp that he was a long way from his national championship season with the Buckeyes. His dwindling stock did not permit him to be the temperamental diva making unreasonable demands.

He apparently was the only person in football who did not realize that the Broncos represented a final opportunity to reverse his has-been status.

The Broncos released him soon enough, and his loss of identity became complete.

He had no back-up plan, of course, unless the thug life qualifies as one.

He remains a quasi-celebrity of sorts, in a Whitney Houston/Danny Bonaduce bad-reality show way.

He will have plenty of time, courtesy of the state, to consider where it all went wrong.

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