Is the end near for the NFL?
By: Les Barnhart 
Posted: 2004-02-07
Category: Washington Redskins News
The decision that was reached on former Ohio State running back, Maurice Clarett, is being viewed as one of the most impacting and controversial since Curt Flood and the advent of free agency. Some have signaled this as the end of the NFL and college football as we all know it. All because someone challenged and (barring a successful appeal) beat a long standing rule that was previously unchallenged.

Whether you like or dislike Maurice Clarett makes no difference in this case. What is important however is how this decision will effect the NFL and college football as it currently stands. Now that the proverbial flood gates have been opened, will both entities (the NFL and college football) suffer? While it remains to be seen what the long term effects will be, Clarett’s trail blazing could set the tone for others to follow. So to some it would appear that the future of major football is in the hands (and legs) of a 21 year old running back with only one season of Division I football under his belt.

The comparisons have been made between Clarett’s plight and one of the NBA’s young phenoms and fellow Ohio native, Lebron James. James made the jump from high school hoop star to the NBA and has made an immediate impact on his league. He followed the path that had been established by the likes of Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and numerous others. The youth movement has also reached Major League Baseball, the PGA and LPGA and the NHL. However, the one huge difference in those sports is that none of them are the NFL nor do they require the physical and mental tools that are a prerequisite for a player to be even moderately successful in the NFL.

Maurice Clarett is preparing to throw his hat into the same ring that has chewed up and spit out some of the nation’s best prospects. Those prospects include “can’t miss” guys, Doak Walker and even Heisman Award winners. Most draft experts including TheHogs.net’s Scooter Moore don’t even have Clarett in their top ten list of running backs in the upcoming draft. Then again, why should they? Clarett’s resume is not impressive. He was a standout in high school? So what. Loads of guys who don’t even make to the NFL can also make that claim. Clarett is not a prodigy, he didn’t even have a legitimate claim to being the nation’s best back in his only season of Division I football. Ultimately, Clarett’s future hangs on that only season with the Ohio State Buckeyes in which he rushed for 1,300 plus yards against a weak Big Ten schedule and helped his team win the National Title. Mix in with that his history of having trouble staying healthy for an entire season and isn’t hard to see that he is asking NFL teams to make a huge leap of faith. That sure doesn’t sound like the resume of a top NFL draft pick.

Now, Clarett has cleared one hurdle and is looking for the next which undoubtedly will be the draft. He is praying on the fact that at least one team will take a chance on him and he will hear his named called in New York. More than likely, someone will answer that prayer and he will be drafted. But then will come the biggest hurdle of this young man’s life, making an NFL roster. For you see, in every draft many of the players who hear their names called don’t see their names on their team’s final roster.

Maurice Clarett has the chance to further make history as he continues his “vision quest”. While he may be a pawn in a legal chess game that may further the careers of his legal team, his success or failure will be what impacts those who may choose to follow in his footsteps and ply their trade in the NFL. The court’s ruling which will be known as the “Clarett Decision” or by some other catchy name, should show little impact on the NFL and college football. This rule had to be challenged and it may actually come to benefit both football establishments as Clarett’s chances of making an impact in the NFL don’t seem as promising as the plights of other young athletes in other professional sports. The reality of this decision may be that a few may try it but the majority of the prospects (especially the ones worth their salt) will continue to follow the traditional path to their gridiron dreams.


-Wingman
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