TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Maurice Clarett shared his story of on-field triumph, off-field trouble and personal redemption with Florida State's football team Wednesday night, imploring players to develop themselves beyond football.
Clarett, a former Ohio State star running back who served nearly four years in prison for aggravated robbery and carrying a concealed weapon, spoke to the Seminoles for more than an hour in the team's auditorium, stressing themes of personal development and accountability.
"Coming from a single-parent environment, coming up in the hoods, sometimes, we're undeveloped," Clarett told the players. "We're great football players, but we're s--- people. We don't have the skills to perform.
"Essentially, I was what y'all was: a national champion. How do you go from being Mr. Everything to Mr. Nothing?"
Clarett, 31, detailed how his delinquent behavior as a child in Youngstown, Ohio, didn't change after he became a football star at Ohio State in 2002. Only after he entered prison, in 2006, did he begin reading about business and developing his true interests outside of football.
"A lot of y'all need to grow up," Clarett told the players. "That's the bottom line. What happened to Maurice Clarett in prison was, I needed to grow the f--- up. You had the world in your hands, the NFL in your hands, and you f---ed it up because you want to be a gangsta.
"There's a lot of people in this room that want to be that."
Clarett addressed football teams at Alabama, Mississippi State, TCU and Connecticut last week, and previously spoke at Notre Dame, LSU, Texas A&M and Tennessee, among others. During a question-and-answer session after the speech, associate head coach Odell Haggins said Clarett was one of the most impressive speakers he had seen in his 22 years at Florida State, reminding the players, "This man is keeping it real."
"That was one of the most bona fide, true, legit talks I've been around in college football in 28 years, trying to reach these young men about making the right choices in life," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "Having it all going to the bottom, that gives him a lot of credibility, unfortunately.
"But sometimes, these guys have to see that."
Florida State has had several off-field incidents involving players in the past two years, including two this summer. Quarterback De'Andre Johnson was dismissed from the team July 6 after the state's attorney released video of him punching a woman at a Tallahassee bar. Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook faces a misdemeanor battery charge after allegedly punching a woman in the face several times outside a Tallahassee bar on June 23. Cook, who was indefinitely suspended from the team in July, has a trial date set for Aug. 24.
In addition, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston, who was drafted No. 1 overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this spring, was accused of rape by a female FSU student in 2013. The state's attorney did not charge Winston, citing a lack of evidence.
Florida State athletic director Stan Wilcox said in a prepared statement last week that the football team is implementing suggestions made by university president John Thrasher in the wake of the Johnson and Cook incidents.
Clarett began his speech by saying, "The actions of a few people don't represent everybody," but later stressed that players' actions, positive and negative, will reflect on the team and the school.
"He didn't really tiptoe around anything," Seminoles defensive tackle Nile Lawrence-Stample said. "The guys who really needed it the most need that direct quote. It means something that can really embed inside their brain."
Clarett is one of 13 speakers addressing Florida State's team during preseason camp. Seminoles players heard Wednesday from Tim Brown, the former Heisman Trophy winner who recently was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They also have heard from Chris Herren, a former NBA player who overcame drug and alcohol addiction, as well as Bob Delaney, a former undercover law enforcement operative and NBA official.
"Just stay true to who you are and to your life and your story, and tell your truth," Clarett said afterward. "If it resonates, it resonates, and if it doesn't, you still told your truth."
Clarett now operates successful packaging and transportation businesses in addition to his extensive speaking engagements with teams, corporations and religious groups.