Former Ohio State football star running back Maurice Clarett was in Chillicothe to share his story at the Where Waz Eye open forum at Lifting Up Jesus Church, Thursday evening.
Clarett said that he was only 8 years old when he first smoked marijuana and consumed alcohol and was put in a juvenile detention center multiple times when he was a minor. After moving into an environment that allowed him to focus on his athletics, Clarett said he was a three-sport athlete who graduated with a 3.5 high school GPA.
"Show me your friends, and I'll show you your future," said Clarett. "You'd be surprised, even from a positive or negative standpoint, the people that you surround yourself with, they play a huge roll in your development."
In 2002, he helped lead the Ohio State Buckeyes to a national football title, but, in the background, he reverted to living a troubled life that included night clubs, drugs, alcohol, and crime.
"When I was on the football field, I portrayed a certain image that I was here for Ohio State," said Clarett, "but, when I was off the football field, I'm into the streets and into the drinking and drugging, so when football's taken out of the equation, what becomes dominate? The street life and those things."
Clarett’s college football career was cut short after he was dismissed from the OhioState football team following an investigation regarding a number of infractions.
He said the problems continued into 2005 when he was drafted by the Denver Broncos. While also suffering from depression, the drugs and alcohol, he said, impacted him physically to where he wasn't able to perform at his full potential. Eventually, he was cut from the team, which was a first for him.
Clarett additionally discussed his 2006 arrest in Columbus in which authorities attempted to stop him after he made a U-turn. He said he fled as he had an AK-47 in the front seat of his vehicle and shared the sense of relief he felt once he was arrested and couldn't harm himself anymore.
Clarett said he went on a “mental journey” when he was incarcerated, and that he developed a passion for learning about things, such as economics. Through reading, he learned, and, through learning, he developed confidence.
Once his sentence was completed, he said he enrolled back into college, had a chance to play football in Omaha, Nebraska, and gave his life to God. Now, he has a fiancée, a daughter, and a number of projects he is involved with that are aimed at helping youth.
"I'm using my experiences from my past to assist others," said Clarett.
Also at the forum to share her story was Pike County resident Audri Beers. She is a recovering heroin addict and said injecting drugs into body led to a bacterial infection that spread to her heart and required her to undergo open-heart surgery and receive a pacemaker.
"Before, I didn't care about anything," said Beers, "and, now, I care about everything, and I have to be very careful with my health."
Both Clarett and Beers said they wanted to share their stories as a warning to others.
And Clarett's message of advice?
"It's simple: get up, go to work, go to the gym, pay your bills, be responsible, stay away from drugs."