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Excerpts from interview with Maurice Clarett

By Gene Wojciechowski
ESPN The Magazine

No player has ever challenged the NFL's early entry rule requiring a three-year period between leaving high school and becoming eligible for the NFL draft. During the course of a nearly 90-minute interview Sept. 29 at Ohio State, Buckeyes true freshman running back Maurice Clarett discussed the topic with ESPN The Magazine Senior Writer Gene Wojciechowski.

Here are the excerpts from that conversation pertaining specifically to the NFL:

ESPN The Magazine: "Have you ever just thought about -- and I ask this question because you were disciplined enough to come out early out of high school to come here in January."
Clarett: "Yeah."
ESPN The Magazine: "You seem like a disciplined enough guy -- I'm not saying you'd do it. I'm not saying you're going to do it. I'm not saying you've ever even thought about it. But there are only certain kinds of people who could do it. Do you know what I'm getting at?"
(Clarett laughs.)
ESPN The Magazine: "Do you think you're one of those people who could maybe do something like that?"
(Clarett punches the keypad of his Nokia cell phone and then shows the name and number of Akron high school star LeBron James, the nation's No. 1 basketball recruit and projected No. 1 pick in the 2003 NBA Draft -- if he decides to go directly to the pros. James and Clarett are friends.)
ESPN The Magazine: "Really?"
(Clarett laughs.)
Clarett: "Do I think about it?"
ESPN The Magazine: "So you have thought about it."
Clarett: "It got to go through your head, man. It got to go through your head. Yo, man, I'm not saying it's something I will do, I'm not saying it's something I won't do. But when you look at your situation, and then you come into your hotel room Friday afternoon, you turn on the TV and you see Donovan McNabb sign for 12 years, for $115 million, with a $20 million signing bonus. Or you see Ray Lewis sign for 7 years, $49 million with a $19 million signing bonus, you kind of like re-evaluate your situation.
"I know it's a whole lot of things that are important about college right now. I know there's a whole lot of things a lot more important than that [the NFL] right now, but if the opportunity comes and you have a chance to take care of your family, and your family would be set for the rest of their lives, and don't have to go through things you went through, of course I'm going to take the chance. If [Ohio State Head] Coach [Jim] Tressel, if [Athletic Director] Andy Geiger or Archie Griffin, [Running Backs] Coach [Tim] Spencer, [Offensive Coordinator] Coach [Jim] Bollman. . . any of them, if they all had the chance they'd do the same thing."
ESPN The Magazine: "What Tressel has said, 'If I had a guy and he was going to be five, 10, top-12 pick, I'd tell him you got to go.'"
Clarett: "You got to. You know, I think you can always come back to school. I don't think there's any job in this world where you're gonna make $115 million in 12 years. I don't think there's one job coming out of college paying like that. I think if you have the opportunity. . . shoot.
"Then you sit there and talk to your buddy LeBron James on the phone and he tells you what he went through next year. It's kind of crazy."

Later in the interview. . .

ESPN The Magazine: "Do you find it weird that you can come out of high school for baseball. You can come out of high school for basketball. You can come out of high school for golf. But you can't come out of high school to play pro football?"
Clarett: "If you look at the physical differences between high school and pro for football, it's like, there's not even a comparison. Football is a real physical game, contact-wise. I don't think there's anybody who could possibly do it. I don't really believe that there will ever be a person who can go from high school to the pros in football. It's just not physically possible, let alone mentally. Just from high school to college is hard."
ESPN The Magazine: "What about from one year of college to pros?"
Clarett: "Hmmmm. (laughs). Do I think it's possible? Um, after the season I could tell you. After the season I could tell you, I can you if it's possible. As of right now, I don't know. It's kind of hard to tell."
ESPN The Magazine: "You have a feeling though."
Clarett: "Yeah, yeah, I have some kind of feeling, but I'm not real sure right now."
ESPN The Magazine: "I'm not asking you if you would do it, but knowing what you know now, seeing what you've seen, physically do you think you could make that jump now?"
Clarett: "Physically, I haven't been through a whole Big Ten season. I really haven't. I haven't been through a whole Big Ten season to see how a Big Ten season plays out."
ESPN The Magazine: "It's going to be different. It's going to be more intense."
Clarett: "Yeah. I think so. So I think after a whole Big Ten season I can see. "But I think when running backs leave early -- I think when running backs leave early it's a whole lot better than, like, wide receivers, quarterbacks, offensive linemen, defensive linemen, because a running back is only going to take so many hits. Your body's only built for so many hits. Say you play four years of college, say you get 250 carries a season -- and that's not including all the hits in practice, spring ball, things like that -- so by the time you get to the NFL it's kind of like your body is beat up.
"That's why Edgerrin James was [drafted] over Ricky Williams -- he didn't take as many hits as Ricky Williams. I think that's why they drafted him over Ricky Williams that year in the draft. That's why they kept -- what's his name -- Deuce McAllister over Ricky Williams, because McAllister hadn't took as many hits."
ESPN The Magazine: "But Deuce gets dinged up too. He has a history of getting dinged up."
Clarett: "He has a history of getting dinged up, but he hasn't taken as many hits as Ricky Williams. That year Ricky Williams won the Heisman he had took so many carries."
ESPN The Magazine: "Do you think about. . . I mean, it's sort of like the meter's running on your body."
Clarett: "That's for everybody."
ESPN The Magazine: "Especially for running backs."
Clarett: "Yeah. Running backs, first you get the initial contact from the first defender, and then the people who pile on after the play."

Later in the interview. . .

ESPN The Magazine: "Have you been approached, either directly or indirectly, by an agent or an agent's runner saying, 'You ought to think about this?'"
Clarett: "Nah. I'm surprised. Coach Tressel told me I'd be approached by agents and things like that. But, in truth, I've never been approached by nobody."
ESPN The Magazine: "Not yet?"
Clarett: "Nah. I think I never really go out, though. I sit at home all day and play video games, chill out or rest my body up. So I really don't be out enough for an agent to know, pinpoint, 'He's here on Thursday,' or, 'He hangs out here,' or, 'He hangs out with such and such.' I'm really more at home, just to myself."

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