COLUMBUS, Ohio — Former Ohio State tailback Maurice Clarett has gotten back into the classroom. Now he wants to get back onto the football field.
Clarett filed a motion with a judge asking to be allowed to travel to try out with the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League. A review of the motion was tentatively set for Monday afternoon and then later pushed back to Aug. 30. Clarett cannot leave the state until he receives clearance from the court.
On Monday, Clarett, who led the Buckeyes to the 2002 national championship, finished up 4½ months in a locked-down, dormitory-style facility that serves as a transition for those getting out of prison. He has asked Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge David Fais to leave the state to try out for the pro team.
His attorney, Michael Hoague, said Clarett was ready to make the most of the opportunity.
“Since he re-enrolled in summer-quarter classes at Ohio State, he’s been going to school and also working out each morning at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center,” Hoague said. “He looks really good.”
Clarett pleaded guilty in 2006 to aggravated robbery and carrying a concealed weapon and served 3½ years in a Toledo prison. He has been attending classes at Ohio State while living in a detention facility in Columbus. Now he will either move to Nebraska to try to make the team or will find an apartment and continue his schooling.
“The people in Iowa had a couple of questions about Maurice. First, was his head on straight? And it’s on really straight,” Hoague said. “Second, is he in shape? And the answer to that is he’s in great shape.”
Tim Jackson, Fais’ bailiff, said Monday that the review of Clarett’s request had to be pushed back because of scheduling problems. Clarett’s case will be discussed in open court then.
The expansion Omaha franchise will be making its debut in the UFL’s second season this fall, joining the Florida Tuskers, Hartford Colonials, Las Vegas Locomotives and Sacramento Mountain Lions. Among the players on the team, currently going through preseason camp, are two former NFL stars, quarterback Jeff Garcia and running back Ahman Green.
The Nighthawks open their season Sept. 24 against the Hartford Colonials.
A call requesting comment from the team’s front office was not immediately returned.
Omaha’s player personnel director is Ted Sundquist, former general manager of the Denver Broncos, who took Clarett in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft.
Clarett, a former Mr. Football in Ohio, started for the Buckeyes as a freshman and quickly asserted himself as one of the premier running backs in the country. He rushed for 1,237 yards in 2002, helping Ohio State to its first national championship in 34 years. He scored the winning touchdown in the second overtime of a dramatic Fiesta Bowl victory over top-ranked Miami.
But he was ruled ineligible the following year for taking special benefits worth thousands of dollars. He sued to enter the NFL Draft early, before he was out of high school for three years, but lost in court.
After he was eventually drafted by the Broncos, he was cut before the season started. He missed most of the preseason with a groin injury.
Then in September 2006 he pleaded guilty to having a hidden gun in his sport utility vehicle and holding up two people outside a bar.
Hoague said Clarett is nervous but hopeful.
“In his position, it’s like he’s in shark-infested waters and the rescue boat is coming to get him,” Hoague said. “He’s nervous. But he’s optimistic.”
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