NCAA FB

RICHARDS: Complex Clarett

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Darryl Richards

 
   
 

TEMPE, Ariz.

Trust doesn't come easy to Maurice Clarett. He has to know a person before he can trust a person and people have a tendency to let you down. Clarett learned that long before he became 's freshman tailback this season. Clarett's father left home when he was just a toddler, forcing his mother Michelle and grandmother to raise Clarett, two brothers and 11 cousins in a three-bedroom home in Youngstown, Ohio. Trust doesn't come easy in Youngstown either. A city that once thrived off of the steel business in the 1930s basically went bust by the mid-70s. Syndicate crime became a big business and murder was part of living in the city limits. Even though Tempe is 2,100 miles away from Youngstown, the realities of living in Youngstown never totally disappear. Clarett knows that all too well. The other day, somebody gunned down Clarett's childhood friend Juaquin "Juan" Bell. Clarett wanted to go to Bell's funeral. coach Jim Tressel didn't have a problem with Clarett returning to Youngstown even though the Buckeyes were in the middle of preparing for the biggest game of the season. It's just that it would have been against NCAA regulations for to provide Clarett with a plane ticket without proof that Clarett couldn't afford a ticket for a family emergency. Clarett said he sent in the necessary information via computer. said it has no such information on file. Clarett said somebody at is lying. maintains that several athletes have submitted the paperwork — the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) — and have received financial help in times of need. Plus, it makes no sense that would intentionally undermine one of its best players and cause a distraction just before the national championship game. "I don't know too much about systems, I haven't been around systems that long," Clarett said. "I've been around the bottom for a long time and living in Youngstown but now I've grown up and I'm here now. The longer I'm around, the more I'll learn about systems." I don't know if Maurice Clarett and his family filled out the proper forms. I'm not sure if Clarett is 100 percent sure about what he submitted on the computer although he is adamant that he filled out the right form. I am certain that Clarett is learning about systems the hard way this week. Clarett is certainly showing a level of immaturity about systems, but he has a raw and rare perspective about life for somebody who is just a freshman. He showed that when he came onto the national scene in September against . Clarett rushed for 230 yards and two touchdowns in the game and wore the Cougars down in the second half. Although he was dinged a few times in the game and had an ugly gash on his hand, Clarett kept coming back in the game. Clarett remarked that he owed it to his teammates and to fans that paid money for a ticket to play hard regardless if they were in the luxury boxes or in the upper deck. "I try to work hard for every fan," Clarett said then. Clarett showed his sense of perspective Monday when he spoke about the wealth that is flaunted by big-time athletic programs and major bowl games like the Fiesta Bowl. Yet for all the hype and glory there are people suffering in cities. "I wish all the money from the jerseys could be funneled to people who actually need it," Clarett said. "If you ever go through downtown Columbus, people are sleeping on sidewalks, and they're giving us scholarships and selling 100,000 tickets to every game. "That's like the richest part of Columbus downtown and you're walking past bums and homeless people. In the wintertime, it's like 19 degrees and they're sleeping with boxes and little covers. It just don't make any sense." And while Clarett is involved in this imbroglio with officials, he can still feel for others. Clarett remarked on what Miami defensive tackle is going through right now. Wilfork's mother died earlier this month. His father died earlier this year. "I heard a dude from Miami lost his mother and his father this year and I'm up here talking about this?" Clarett said. "I couldn't imagine going through that. That is really sad. If that were me, I probably wouldn't play. You have to be a big man to do that." Although Clarett is just a freshman, I sense he will keep that perspective when he steps on the field against Miami on Friday. Clarett didn't hide his mistrust of systems and of administrators on Tuesday. But he has great trust for coach Jim Tressel and his teammates. Clarett knows a lot about the people around him because he lived around them, bled with them, sweated with them and reached this point with his team. Frankly, that's all he needs to know Friday night. His teammates understand that much. senior safety remembers seeing Clarett walking during the winter quarter just wearing a hooded sweatshirt on a day when it was around 30 degrees. Doss asked Clarett if he had a coat. Clarett said he didn't have one so Doss gave him his coat because he felt a responsibility to take care of a freshman. "For Maurice's mentality and where he came from -- two years ago Youngstown was the murder capital of the U.S. -- you keep things in perspective," Doss said. "He came to a place where people aren't focused on all that, where they're focused on football. He's trying to draw that fine line. He just wanted to go to a friend's funeral before he was put six feet under. From his perspective, that's not asking too much. But with NCAA rules, that's a tight squeeze." Senior writer Darryl Richards can be reached at his e-mail address, dricahrds@foxsports.com.
Tagged: Miami (FL), Ohio State, Washington State

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