His legacy is a topic for football fans who have, by nature, a romanticized relationship with the game. Beyond that legacy lies a man rebuilding his life after being released from a correctional facility. The rebuilding efforts have led back to Ohio State, to old Columbus town, where Clarett has re-enrolled at the university he helped lead to its first national title in over 30 years.
“Maurice Clarett has been granted reentry into The Ohio State University, following a review by the College of Education and Human Ecology,” said Jim Lynch, director of media relations for Ohio State.
Clarett will attend classes for the second half of OSU’s summer quarter.
“This is a surreal feeling to be back at Ohio State in such a supportive environment,” Clarett said in a statement. “I have looked forward to being back in school and I’m doing my best to fit in with other students. I don’t want to be a distraction or nuisance to the football team or to students on campus.”
Thomas Wolfe famously, posthumously, noted that you can’t go home again. Clarett, the conundrum in Ohio State football lore, puts an interesting wrinkle on this expression with his re-enrollment. He is following through with desires expressed on his blog to make good, rebuild his life and do right by his family and is returning home to do so. Yet, in so doing, he is returning to a place where he can not hide. We know who he is; we know the story. If students these days are similar to how I was at that football mad institution of higher learning, they can spot the walk-on punter in their 8am class. They will certainly spot him and know his story. Wolfe probably had it half right. You can go home again; it just may not be home, again.
I remember when the topic of an early release for him came up about a year and a half ago. The reaction from Ohio State fans, while certainly not universal, seemed to border on the negative. The terms of his crimes, his exit from the university, his apparent undesirable connections in California, his behavior, his high speed pursuit all made him a menace to society. It’s easy to be cynical. As a general heuristic to life, it should help you in important stretches. However, it’s too easy to be cynical. It’s too easy to suggest that Clarett is still a persona non grata that Ohio State and Jim Tressel are welcoming back to a university and corollary athletic department that suffered a noticeable black eye because of him. But, of that sentiment, who would want to be proven right in their cynicism about Clarett? I know I wouldn’t.
I’m hopeful that Clarett can follow through with the difficult road ahead, culminating in successful reintegration into society. His saga has been difficult to digest for people who take pride in the flagship institution of their state, or the name on their degree. Clarett making the most of his second chance would not be difficult to digest. It’d be something everyone can take pride in.