Maurice Clarrett walked away from the 2005 NFL Combine last week after running two 40 meter sprints. His official times were clocked at 4.82 and 4.72; times that are below the rung of top running backs. Although Clarett’s times were clocked just milliseconds behind the best times for running backs in the draft, there were five 300-pound plus offensive linemen who also ran similar times. His draft-day stock had dropped.
The former Ohio State running back was devastated and quickly left Indianapolis’ RCA Dome, long before official workouts were due to end. There was still the vertical jump, the bench presses and a host of other workouts. Clarett was resigned to the fact that his draft-day fate was sealed.
In January 2001 he had committed to playing football for Ohio State, by December, he was named USA Today’s offensive high school player of the year while attending Warren’s Harding High School in Ohio. Nothing could stop him. He was the youngest starting running back for Ohio State since 1943 when he began as a freshman in 2002, and scored the final touchdown in the Fiesta Bowl that year to give Ohio State its first championship in 34 years. However, his five-yard dive into the end-zone seemed to signal a change in the wind.
His first year at Ohio State was not without controversy. In October, he was the topic of an ESPN the Magazine cover story that outlined his plans to enter the NFL early. There was also a photo accompanying the article that pictured the troubled running back tossing his Ohio State jersey aside. The article did not sit well with the university and it did not sit well with fans.
According to Clarett, he was then subjected to a barrage of hate mail. He wanted to enter the NFL Draft early and a year later, challenged the ruling that states every player eligible for draft must be out of high school at least three years. The saga continued, and finally on May 24, 2004, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Clarett even entering the supplemental draft which is held after the NFL Draft. The running back’s fight to enter the draft as a sophomore was cut down.
In the aftermath, he accused Ohio State and head coach Jim Tressel of arranging that he got good grades so that he could pass class. He accused the university of giving him money. He accused them of giving him cars.
Players, coaches and the NFL have since questioned his persona and having a solid combine performance could have corrected all past wrongs.
However, walking away from the combine after two sub-par efforts has only confirmed past concerns. According to ESPN, many coaches have wondered if Clarett gives up in the combine why wouldn’t he give up in the fourth quarter of an NFL game. He said he would return with better times at the Ohio State workout day but his former university does not want him there.
Those milliseconds must seem huge to Clarett.