WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – At 34 years old, Maurice Clarett is still striving to be the best.
On the high school football field, he was the best.
“Just to give it context, when I was playing football, in my mind, I thought I was a gangster playing football,” Clarrett said, “In my mind, I had like a gangster mentality, like an in-the-street mentality playing football.”
While that mentality served him well on the field, it also led to his troubles off of it.
Clarett, a Warren Harding graduate, exploded onto the Buckeye football stage as a true freshman. He was a key piece of the 2002 national championship team.
But he never had a sophomore season because he was kicked off the team for having accepted improper benefits.
Struggling with mental health and drug and alcohol abuse issues led to an aggravated robbery conviction. After spending nearly four years in prison, he decided that it was time to turn his life around.
“I woke up at some point, and it’s not today I’m doing everything perfect, but I just quit making excuses for myself. Like OK, you bombed out because you were irresponsible. You bombed out of college because you weren’t doing what you were supposed to be doing based on the rules and guidelines that were there. You bombed out of the NFL because you just weren’t a professional,” he said. “Like, it’s hard truths with yourself, and so the story of my life is that I was able to give myself hard truths, deal with them, and work on them.”
A court-mandated mental health evaluation is what started his recovery.
Clarett now believes that he can help bridge the gap between therapists and the inner city youth that share in his struggle by helping to give clinicians a cultural understanding of who they’re dealing with and serve as a voice for both sides.
So two years ago, he founded the Red Zone.
“I care about developing our people and having our people develop those people. I care about us being great at what we do,” he said.
Clarett is so focused on this project that he has given up his lucrative shipping and packaging company to pursue his passion. Without government funding, he has already built a company with well over 100 employees that, he says, has triple the amount of social work and mental health support in the Youngstown City Schools and saved the district an excess of $1 million.