Maurice Clarett comes 'home' to Ohio State

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I can guarantee you that’s a headline I never thought I would’ve typed in my lifetime.

But that’s indeed the case as Maurice Clarett has returned to his old stomping grounds, albeit as one of tens of thousands of students that litter the Ohio State campus instead of a revered-turned-reviled football star.

The former Buckeyes running back and hero of the school’s last national championship is enrolled at OSU, taking his first classes of the summer session Monday with a listed major of Consumer and Family Finances.

Clarett released a statement through the university in which he sounded both contrite and just wanting to get on with his life.

This is a surreal feeling to be back at Ohio State in such a supportive environment. 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 distraction or nuisance to the football team or to students on campus.”

Monday was likely one of the the first times Clarett has stepped foot back on the Columbus campus since being ruled ineligible in 2003 for receiving illegal benefits.  Shortly thereafter, the now-26-year-old Clarett — after a failed 2004 lawsuit that, if successful, would’ve allowed him to circumvent league rules and enter the draft before he’d been out of high school for three years — was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the third round of the 2005 NFL draft.  After being cut by the Broncos before ever seeing a preseason or regular-season NFL field, Clarett’s personal life began to unravel and spiral out of control.

On New Year’s Day of 2006, Clarett was being sought by police and ultimately charged with aggravated robbery; eight months later, he was arrested yet again following a police chase and subsequently charged with, among other offenses, carrying a concealed weapon without a permit.  Both of those incidents occurred in the city of Columbus.

In September of that year, Clarett was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison, with the possibility of early release halfway through the sentence.  In April of this year, Clarett was indeed granted early release, but was ordered to a Columbus halfway house for six months.  Again, in Columbus.

So, one of the most self-entitled players in the history of college football has come full circle, attempting to get a mess of a life under control as he exits prison and embarks on the rest of his days on this earth.

In a blog family and friends helped him maintain while in prison as he had no Internet access, Clarett — in the final posting that appeared in August of last year — placed the onus for his troubles squarely where they belong.  On himself.

“One thing that really frustrates me is that I have not been relevant to my family for the past four summers. That puts a chip on my shoulder. I have no one to blame but myself. The thoughts just put me in a zone like no other. It puts me in my “One and only” mode. I know that there is no way for me to make up for lost time but hopefully my actions in the future will help them to forget all that’s taken place in the past. I never thought I’d once again be in the position of thinking how am I going to get out of this rut. I think that the longer I wait the more serious I become. I think it’s because I have a good understanding on what it means to be physically free.”

I have no one to blame but myself.

If Clarett can wrap his arms around that ideal and truly live it — as opposed to his pre-prison life, which consisted of various coddlers ranging from hangers-on to family to members of the OSU athletic department and football program enabling at nearly every turn — maybe he can flip the script on this sad tale and become a productive member of society.

Good luck, Maurice.  Don’t blow this chance sitting in your lap.

LOOK: Arizona State to wear Pat Tillman-themed uniforms

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Pat Tillman is essentially the Knute Rockne of Arizona State football, the central figure that will be as important to the program 100 years from now as he is today. And while Notre Dame will wear Rockne-themed uniforms later this season, so, too, will Arizona State.

The program revealed Tillman-centric uniforms on Monday for their Nov. 4 game with Colorado, based on the uniform Tillman wore as a member of the U.S. Army while fighting in Afghanistan.

Tillman played linebacker at Arizona State from 1994-97 (he was named the Pac-10’s Defensive Player of the Year as a senior) and then spent four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals before the events of 9/11 inspired him to join the U.S. Army. He was a member of the Army Rangers before he was killed in action in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004, at age 27.

Arizona State unveiled a Tillman statue at Sun Devil Stadium at its season-opening win over New Mexico State.

“Pat spent his whole life trying to be the best person he could possibly be,” Kevin Tillman, Pat’s brother, said at the unveiling. “He didn’t focus on money, he didn’t focus on fame, he didn’t focus on a pretty statue. It was, ‘How can I make myself a better person in all these different facets of my life?’ And ASU gave him an opportunity to do that.”

Jim McElwain says family, players have received death threats over 3-3 start

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Florida has lost two in a row and is off to a 3-3 start, and that streak will probably reach three on Saturday after the Gators meet No. 3 Georgia. While everyone knows SEC fans are passionate about their football, some have taken Florida’s struggles too far.

How far? By threatening to kill the players and coaches.

“I think it’s a pretty good lesson for the way things are,” head coach Jim McElwain said, via Only Gators. “There’s a lot of hate in this world and a lot of anger. And yet, it’s freedom to show it. The hard part is, obviously, when it’s threats against your own players, death threats to your families, the ill will that’s brought upon out there. And yet, I think it’s really one of those deals that really is a pretty good testament to what’s going on out there nationally. There’s a lot of angry people, and in this business, we’re the ones you take the shots at. And that’s the way it is.”

In my experience, it seems people lodging death threats are far more serious about the threat part than the, uh, other. But that’s easy for me to say, I’ve never received one.

Report: Sam Darnold expected to return to USC in 2018

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Sam Darnold was appointed the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NFL Draft on the second day of 2017. As a redshirt freshman, Darnold torched Penn State to the tune of 33-of-53 passing for 453 yards with five touchdowns and one interception in a 52-49 Rose Bowl win.

One problem, though. Darnold hasn’t played like a No. 1 pick this season.

While he hasn’t been the most disappointing player on what’s turning out to be a disappointing USC team, Darnold has posted pedestrian numbers (for him): hitting 63.5 percent of his passes for an even eight yards per attempt with 17 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. He ranks 38th nationally in passing efficiency. This puts him, coincidentally, one spot ahead of former USC quarterback Max Browne.

On Monday, NFL Draft analyst Benjamin Allbright shared a report that Darnold is expected to return to USC next season.

Considering Ronald Jones could return next season and that Stephen Carr is just a freshman, the prospect of Darnold returning in 2018 has to take the sting out of a lost 2017 for Trojans fans.

Texas QB Sam Ehlinger, C Zach Shackelford in concussion protocol

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Texas has lost two straight upset bids in strikingly similar fashion: true freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger leads a potential-game winning drive, scrambles, hits his head on the turf and ends the possession in a puzzling throw.

The first came in last week’s loss to No. 10 Oklahoma. Trailing 29-24 late in the fourth quarter, scrambled for two yards to the Texas-48 yard line but hit his head on the Cotton Bowl turf and was forced to leave the game for five plays. Shane Buechele pushed the Longhorns to the Oklahoma 31, but he was replaced after a sack and Ehlinger ended up throwing the ball away on 4th-and-13 from the OU 34 with two minutes to play. That, as they say, was that.

Fast forward to Saturday and Texas was trailing No. 11 Oklahoma State 13-10 in overtime when Ehlinger opened the possession with a scramble that again saw the back of his head bang against the Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium turf. He stayed in the game this time, but ended the game on a puzzling (to say the least) interception to absolutely no one on 3rd-and-4 from the OSU 6.

While Ehlinger was not evaluated for a concussion during the game, he did not practice Sunday and head coach Tom Herman said Monday that Ehlinger and center Zach Shackelford are in concussion protocol.

Complicating matters for Texas is that sophomore back-up Shane Buechele is playing on a gimpy ankle that kept him out against San Jose State and Kansas State that Herman said will not improve as the season goes on.

No matter, Texas will face a hungry Baylor team on Saturday (noon ET, ESPNU) that nearly completed a comeback against No. 22 West Virginia on Saturday night.