It's funny when NFL teams act so appalled when one of their players are in trouble.
You often read how organizations "take this matter very seriously" and are "shocked and disturbed" by the actions of their players. Maybe they are, but if that's the case, then they shouldn't have drafted a player with questionable character and whose past is littered with incidents that reflect such poor behavior.
The reason this topic is on my mind has more to do with my recent interviews with a few current NFL players from the Warren area than it does with former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez being charged with the murder of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd.
Warren always seems to get a bad rap, and while Maurice Clarett didn't set a great example, teams really don't need to worry much if they're picking a player from Warren G. Harding in the draft or recruiting one for college. People seem to forget guys like Deryck Toles, Dan and David Herron and the late Korey Stringer, among others. Those are some of the classiest and well-mannered guys you're going to meet. All have quality morals and are constantly giving back to the community.
A few more guys from Warren, namely Mario Manningham, are adding their names to the list. The Mario Manningham Skills Camp finished its fourth year Thursday. Not only is the camp free, but Manningham gave out Nike duffel bags and hats to all who attended, and the five "stars" who helped (Manningham, Clarett, Dan Herron, Ted Ginn Jr. and Chris Rucker) stuck around afterward - signing autographs, taking pictures and reminiscing with old friends.
The offseason for an NFL player is a cherished time for guys who undergo rigorous training and have their bodies battered for a good portion of the year. That didn't stop Manningham and the rest of this group from showing the youth of Warren how to play football.
"It wasn't always easy for those guys growing up," said current Harding football coach Steve Arnold, who helped organize and run the camp. "So this is their way of helping these kids out. They've been blessed with God-given ability to be able to earn a good living and be able to reach people and give back to to the community in which they grew up.
"There are some guys who made mistakes. The NFL's image isn't good right now, and what sells newspapers? The bad stories, not the good ones. When something transpires that isn't in a good way, that's what you hear about, not all the good things that happened here."
One of the first Harding players to make it to the NFL and then put on a football camp in Warren was Steve's brother, Dave Arnold, back in 1990. The former Pittsburgh Steeler was joined by then-Cleveland Browns running back Leroy Hoard and Chris Calloway, a wide receiver who played with Arnold in Pittsburgh. Korey Stringer had a camp planned before his death in 2001, and his family and friends still put it on after his passing.
Those types of situations show that Steve and other coaches, along with the parents of these athletes, have obviously done a great job imparting great qualities upon their kids.
"It's funny because I was able to coach most of those guys, and I've always tried to instill that into them: 'Don't forget where you came from,' " Steve Arnold said. "That's been important. And those guys have been great."
Including Clarett. Much maligned over the last decade of his life, Clarett appears to be back on the right track. He was polite and cordial during an interview, and one of his good friends, Dan Herron, who said he works out with Clarett on a regular basis in Columbus, spoke very highly of the current lifestyle of Clarett, who recently put together a charity basketball game at Struthers High School.
"He's been going around and speaking at different places," Herron said. "He's really got himself back together. I'm really happy for him. He has a bright future with whatever he does. He works hard at everything."
While it's a longshot to think Clarett could still make a comeback at age 29, you never know. He looked to be in incredible shape at the camp, and while he's been out of game since playing for the Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL in 2011, his body also avoided the wear and tear of multiple NFL seasons. Clarett didn't talk about a comeback, and when asked, Steve Arnold and Herron weren't sure if Clarett was aiming for a resurgence.
"Maurice is in great shape right now," Herron said. "He's got a lot going on. I'm not sure which move he wants to make yet, but he has a lot of great things going on."
Regardless, it certainly seems Clarett's story will end better than it started, and while he may have set a bad precedent for Warren players entering the NFL, his personal comeback is a more appropriate example of the qualities that are instilled into people from the city.