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'Youngstown Boys' recalls black eye for Buckeyes

MAURICE CLARETT Prison Sentence: 7 1/2 years (Served

Prison Sentence
: 7 1/2 years (Served 3 1/2 years)
Clarett showed immense potential in his first year at Ohio State, setting a school record for single-season rushing yards by a freshman, leading the school to the 2002 national championship. But his career went downhill from there.He was dismissed from Ohio State the following year, unsuccessfully challenged the NFL’s draft eligibility rules, and never played a down in the NFL. He was then arrested in 2006 for armed robbery, and later, for leading a police chase. Clarett was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison but was allowed to apply for early release after three and a half years.
Credit: AP

ESPN, which has made a recent habit of following its Heisman Trophy show with high-quality documentaries that focus on college football, will do so again Saturday, this time with “Youngstown Boys.’’

The two-hour program primarily recalls the rapid rise and fall of running back Maurice Clarett, who as a freshman in 2002 led Ohio State to a national championship.

The film’s subplot is the relationship between Clarett and Jim Tressel, who before joining the Buckeyes had been the coach at Clarett’s hometown Youngstown State.

At the risk of a spoiler, Clarett now seems to have his life together and does motivational speaking in addition to other business interests.

After a screening in Manhattan Tuesday Clarett said that after initially balking at the idea, he was satisfied with how filmmakers Michael and Jeff Zimbalist had portrayed him. (The brothers made “The Two Escobars’’ in 2010, among the most well-regarded of ESPN’s “30 for 30’’ documentary series.)

“It was refreshing, it was relieving, it was my story,’’ he said, adding he hoped viewers would not only understand him better but also understand the need to reach out for help if they need it.

Earlier Tuesday, on a conference call with reporters, Tressel said:

“This week as we're remembering Nelson Mandela and all that, I saw a quote that really spoke to me here in the last day or two in regards to Maurice and the film, and it said, ‘Difficulties break some men but make others.  No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope he will rise even in the end.’"

At 30, Clarett said he has lost the edge that helped make him an effective, punishing back, to the point the person he is now could not have been the football player he was then.

“I don't have anger toward anybody,’’ he said. “I used to have anger toward a lot of things when I was younger, and I'd just channel it and I'd channel all the energy or channel that toughness or that pain and just deliver it onto people.

“It was a personal competition for me just to beat on people or to act like I was tougher, but I don't care about that anymore. I can't even say I would be the same football player.’’

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