After Maurice Clarett and Mike Williams both challenged the NFL to enter last year’s draft and lost, both have been looking forward to their chance to prove their worth to the NFL masses. That chance came over the weekend at the NFL combine in Indianapolis. The weekend was decidedly better for one, while the other is perhaps left with more questions unanswered.
There were rumors that Mike Williams would opt out on the combine this past weekend and would instead hold private workouts at a later time for those teams interested in the former USC standout. Williams' attempt to get into last year’s draft was thwarted and he was deemed ineligible by the NCAA. He hasn’t played in a game since he helped win part of a national championship in January 2004. Williams obviously decided to workout at the combine and his results, while not spectacular, came in close to the workout he had last season when he looked to be in the draft. He posted slower 40 times than several of his wide receiver cohorts as he turned in an unofficial 4.59 and 4.61 in his attempts. He had stated earlier that he would “bet the farm” on his being under 4.5 in those attempts but fell short as his time remained close to last year’s 4.6. Despite his lack of breakaway speed, Williams’s stock remains high as speed isn’t his only draw. Being 6’4 1/2”, 228 pounds and showing the ability to make tough catches across the middle makes him a huge commodity. Williams will hold a private workout on March 10th, in his hometown of Tampa, Florida.
Maurice Clarett was also in attendance at the combine in what was viewed by many as the start of Clarett’s rebuilding process. With an incomplete body of work on the field, and the trouble with Ohio State following him, the combine served as an opportunity for Clarett to portray a new image and showcase his ability to the NFL. Many felt that Clarett could vault himself into the discussion of viable running back prospects in the 2005 draft with a good showing in Indianapolis. The talk had talked, now Big Mo as he is called by those around him, simply had to walk the walk. After posting two very slow times (4.72 and 4.82) in his 40 yd sprint attempts, perhaps Mo took the “walk the walk” part a bit too literally.
While Clarett’s off the field character questions may remain, his poor performance cost him an opportunity to put to rest a lot of the on the field questions. Unfortunately for him and those pulling for him, he did little to improve his draft value and with his having all year to get ready for this test, some feel they have seen his best, to which few (if any) were impressed. Clarett put himself on the biggest stage but simply didn’t or couldn’t put it together when it counted the most. He didn't endear himself to teams either as after his sprints, he donned a sweatshirt and refused to participate in any further drills. Again this raised questions about not only his maturity but committment level as well.
Clarett may find solace in the fact that there may be a team that could take a flier on him late in the draft; at this point his dreams of going in the early rounds seem to be just that, a dream. He may prove that he is a better back than he appears to be right now, and if he does, he would go down as one of the greatest Cinderella stories ever told. But based on his brief history, Clarett’s physical shortcomings may be the least of his concern; his work ethic, character and heart may be what determines his future.
This article was released on 2005-02-28.
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