When he was starring as a freshman running back for Ohio State University, Maurice Clarett had the entire world in front of him. He had just rushed for 1,237 yards, scored 18 touchdowns and was a major contributor to the Buckeyes’ 14-0 record and BCS National Championship.
Then the wheels came off one by one.
But even a potential NFL career derailed by a myriad of off-the-field issues (including a seven-and-a-half-year prison sentence for armed robbery) have not dejected the Youngstown, Ohio native enough to stop him from waking up at 4 am everyday and hitting the gym for a two-hour workout.
“The weight room is very spiritual and I put that type of energy into it,” says Clarett. “I make a conscious effort into each and every rep.”
ONE AND DONE
Unfortunately, some hard lessons were learned along the way for the now-29-year-old, who first made headlines away from the gridiron with disciplinary problems at Ohio State. He ended up being suspended by the school for the 2003 season, which caused him to file a law suit to be included in the 2004 NFL Draft. The long and drawn out court process included a victory for Clarett, which was later overturned on appeal. By the time it was all said and done, he had missed two seasons of football and was not in his best shape at the 2005 NFL Combine.
In a surprise move, the Denver Broncos drafted Clarett in the third round. But things did not go well for him in training camp and he was released before the regular season started. But this was merely the start of Clarett’s real troubles.
In January 2006, Clarett was arrested for armed robbery and then while out on bail, he was re-arrested that August and he eventually took a plea bargain a month later. Clarett would eventually be released from prison in April 2010 after serving the mandatory time.
So instead of viewing imprisonment as a negative, Clarett used that period to clear his mind and make himself a better person. “All you do is work out,” he recalls. “We didn’t have any weights and you may have 500 people in the yard and only four or five pull-up bars. Everyone wants to work out so you have to go on a constant rotation.”
Clarett would do 40 sets of three basic movements every day: 20 pull-ups, 20 dips and 20 pushups. “I started out doing four-to-six reps,” he says. “Then 10, 12, 15 and I kept going up from there. I was the most competitive guy in the penitentiary.”
WORKING FROM HOME
Back in Ohio, Clarett became reacquainted with an old friend he knew when he was at college. “Cory Gregory hit me up on Twitter,” he explains. “We had first met about 10 years ago when I was still at Ohio State and he first opened up the Old School Gym. We worked out together back then and reconnected. He’s a gym rat like me. But, man, I always thought that I was the hardest working guy in the gym. But he is!”
The two friends train together every morning and have a similar mindset when it comes to working out. They are such close friends that Clarett likens their relationship to a “brotherhood.”
Once at the gym, they train a different body part every day and perform plyometrics at least twice a week. They also do cleans for conditioning and use a barbell with 135 pounds for high reps.
Clarett also has a heavy bag hanging in his garage and will hit it in the evening three or four times per week. “If I don’t have a great workout that morning, I go and tear the bag up later,” he says. And as far as blowing off a workout?
“I can’t remember the last time that I have taken off from the gym, going back to prison, even. The most that I have ever taken off is a half day.”
A DIFFERENT SPORT
Still having a competitive edge, Clarett played two seasons for the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League, which has since folded. He was feeling strong and at a good bodyweight (230 pounds) for his 5’11” frame. But no NFL teams called.
“It’s more of a passing league now,” he says. “So many guys can run the ball, too.”
So while he admits that he would love to go suit up right now and play football (still performing the routines that he did in his playing days, such as Olympic lifts, plyos, sprints, sled dragging, etc.), the reality of the situation speaks for itself. With that in mind, Clarett began plying his trade at rugby, a sport very popular overseas and catching on in the United States.
He first played in a charity game in his hometown when the coach for the Columbus team noticed his talent. Clarett has kept working on his game and has aspirations of playing for a team in Los Angeles later this fall, a hotbed for the sport.
But regardless of how things turn out, Clarett knows that he can’t change the past. “It doesn’t bother me that I didn’t play in the NFL,” he concludes. “I would have loved to have done it but also understand that you have to take accountability for your actions. I don’t cry or bitch about it; it’s the harsh realities.”
And it isn’t a stretch to say that Clarett is already a winner living his new life, if he ever plays a sport again or not.