Jimbo Fisher brought Maurice Clarett to campus to speak to the Florida State football team last week. It was one of those scared-straight teachable moments, and clearly a much better choice than having Pro Football Hall of Famer Cris Carter address the players.
Wearing an FSU football T-shirt, the former Ohio State running back held nothing back. Kicked off the Buckeyes team in 2003 after a spectacular freshman season and later imprisoned for nearly four years on aggravated robbery and weapons charges, Clarett talked to the Seminoles as if he could read some of their minds.
“A lot of ya’ll need to grow up,” he said. “That’s the bottom line. What happened to Maurice Clarett in prison was, I needed to grow the bleep up. You had the world in your hands, the NFL in your hands, and you bleeped it up because you want to be a gangsta.
“There’s a lot of people in this room that want to be that.”
Strong medicine, and if you read the college football headlines, there are people at every major college program who could use a dose of it as a preventative.
Now, however, that the Dalvin Cook trial is over and the Seminoles running back has been found not guilty of misdemeanor battery against a woman, another idea comes to mind.
Jimbo would have been well served by bringing his team, one small unit at a time, to attend a portion of Cook’s one-day trial at the Leon County Courthouse.
Maybe some of them would have missed practice. So what?
Maybe some would have missed a class. Don’t football players and their academic advisors figure out how to make up work and get study notes on the weekends when the team leaves for road games?
Bottom line, there is no media report and no word-of-mouth synopsis that can duplicate the tension of being in court with real consequences on the line and the outcome in the hands of a jury. What a lousy, sickening feeling, and that goes double when the defendant believes he has done no wrong. The attorneys are circling, the family members in the courtroom seats are struggling to hold it together and the court reporter is getting it all down in case some appeals court winds up chewing on the same grisly bone all over again.
To see a teammate and a friend in that situation would make real the possibility of forfeiting a football career over one stupid night, regardless of the validity of the claims against you.
Even for players who have been in court to see a family member or a friend on trial, the thought of being separated from the game should provide an extra jolt, sort of like the one that Clarett has been trying to deliver in speeches at FSU, Notre Dame, Alabama, LSU, TCU, Texas A&M, Kentucky, Cincinnati and more.
Cook is not Clarett. I’m not saying that. The jury needed just 25 minutes Monday to decide that the FSU star did nothing illegal, and that was after hours of testimony in which the accuser and other witnesses failed to convince jurors otherwise. Now he returns to practice, without restrictions, because
none have been earned.
After a summer, however, in which Jimbo kicked another player off the team in light of video evidence of barroom battery on a woman, and after a 2014 season in which former Seminoles star Jameis Winston was targeted and later cleared in a sexual assault investigation, there’s always more to be learned about accountability.
If a coach can make the whole team run laps because one guy messed up at practice, why can’t he make them sit in a courtroom and stew in the seriousness of it when one of their own messes up off campus?
Oh, and the coach ought to be there, too, when the verdict comes in. He’s responsible for the whole bunch, from national signing day to graduation. He needs to see his team as the world sees it, and share in that every step of the way.