THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Maurice Clarett is expected to sign a contract to play for the Mahoning Valley Hitmen, one of four teams in the firstyear Eastern Indoor Football League.
Hitmen coach and general manager Jim Terry, who has played in several indoor football leagues, said that Clarett, a star running back on Ohio State’s 2002 national championship team, has made an oral agreement with the team and should sign a contract by today. Terry said he sent the papers to Clarett last night.
"I’ve never seen a player this excited at this level of play," Terry said of Clarett. "This isn’t a runner’s league. It’s a passer’s league. And (Clarett) is going to try to make it on the ground."
Clarett has been beset by seemingly endless difficulties. After his freshman season in 2002, Ohio State officials accused him of violating NCAA rules by accepting presents from a family friend and suspended him for the 2003 season. He was later convicted of filing a false police report that claimed $10,000 worth of property was stolen from a car he had parked on campus.
After leaving Ohio State, he unsuccessfully sued the NFL over age restrictions in an attempt to enter the 2004 draft. He was drafted in 2005 by the Denver Broncos but was released before the season.
Earlier this year, he pleaded not guilty to aggravated-robbery charges. He is awaiting trial.
Terry understands Clarett’s past but thinks the Hitmen could be a good fit for him.
"He’s a bona fide Division I star, and he’s from Youngstown," Terry said. "If he can’t make it here, he can’t make it anywhere."
Clarett is not the only former Buckeye who Terry expressed interest in.
"We’re also after (former OSU quarterback) Steve Bellisari. We’d love for him to play for us," he said.
That’s if the league can get on its feet. The Hitmen formed in May, and questions have sprung up about whether they will ever play a game. The team only has four players on its roster but plans to hold open tryouts in August.
And it isn’t certain where the Hitmen will play their games, but Terry said the league will start its inaugural season in January or February with no fewer than five teams and no more than seven. With fewer teams in the league, Terry said it will be easier for every team to at least break even financially.
"The most important thing is that every team that starts the season ends the season," he said. "I don’t want this to be like a bowling league with a new guy or new team leaving every year."
In addition to the Hitmen, the EIFL’s Web site lists New Jersey’s Bay Shore Brawlers and Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Rats as the other teams in the league. Terry also said a team from Maryland recently joined the EIFL.
Now he just hopes Clarett will join the Hitmen.
"A lot of people will say, ‘Look how far he has fallen,’ " Terry said. "I say, ‘What do you want this guy to do? Do you want him to just give up?’ "