From collegiate star to NFL bust to Olympian. That's how Maurice Clarett's strange career path could read if the 29-year-old can grasp and master his new sport, rugby.
Rugby Mag is reporting that the former Ohio State standout has joined the the Tiger Rugby Olympic Development Program in Columbus, Ohio. And he's got his sights set on Brazil, where rugby will be reintroduced into the Olympics.
"He's committed to try to make Rio 2016,” Tiger Rugby director Paul Holmes told Rugby Mag. "That's Maurice's plan."
The highs and lows of Clarett's career have been well documented. The Youngstown, Ohio, native had an extremely successful freshman season at Ohio State, rushing for 1,237 yards and scoring 18 touchdowns. He was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year and helped lead the Buckeyes to a national championship.
Several poor decisions on Clarett's part led the school to suspend him for the 2003 athletic year, and shortly after hearing the news the rising sophomore dropped out of school. Clarett tried to enter the 2004 NFL Draft but was denied, so he waited a year and submitted his name again in 2005. He was taken by the Denver Broncos in the third round of the 2005 draft, but he was released before ever playing a down.
Clarett was arrested twice in 2006 and subsequently spent several years in jail. In 2010 he signed on with the UFL's Omaha Nighthawks, where he played his first meaningful games since his freshman year at Ohio State.
Despite the fact that Clarett has spent so much time away from competitive athletics, Holmes says he's still in excellent shape.
"He's ridiculous. That's all I can say," Holmes said. "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."
Holmes said he and his staff checked around to make sure Clarett was mature enough to train with Tiger Rugby. And they believe he deserves a chance.
“I think the big thing with Maurice is the maturity that’s beyond a lot of other guys," Holmes said, "just because of the life experience he’s gone through, and I think he’s learned to look at the bigger picture in life."
Clarett is not the first college star to turn to rugby in recent years. Former Missouri standout Tommy Saunders, LSU speedseter Bennie Brazell and Brown linebacker Miles Craigwell all made the switch, with varying degrees of success.
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