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Clarett needs to forget NFL
and grow up

By By Josh Taylor / staff writer
Sept. 28, 2003
It's official.
Civil action number 03-CV-7441 involving Maurice Clarett versus National Football League Inc. is officially filed.
Let the games begin.
This is the latest episode in the saga of Ohio State's star running back Maurice Clarett. Sorry, former star running back.
In case you have been living in a monastery for the last few months, I'll bring you up to speed. Clarett is currently suing the NFL for entry into the 2004 draft. Under NFL rules, a player is not eligible to play in the NFL until after his third season in the college football ranks or after his third year out of high school.
Come on Maurice, grow up.
Let me first explain why the NFL has this rule. Unlike other professional sports leagues, the NFL requires a certain level of maturity in mind and body to compete at this level.
Pro football is simply a more demanding physical sport than pro baseball or pro basketball. Basketball is a stamina and skill sport. If a rookie right out of high school has the endurance and skill level (enter LeBron James), the gap is narrowed.
Baseball is also a skill sport. Most baseball players with Major League potential have been playing the game since age five.
They have had plenty of time to develop these skills. Once again the gap is narrowed.
Professional football players do need plenty of skill and plenty of stamina, but more than anything pro football is a sport of size. Today's NFL lineman average around 300 pounds. Even the league's little guys, like wide receivers and quarterbacks, are still huge.
Size and muscle mass is something that is built over time. Clarett may be a phenomenal college athlete, but that doesn't mean he's ready to play with the big boys. I'm talking about men that have had years of time in the weight room. It's very common for most NFL rookies to spend their first year in the league in the weight room, not on the field.
When Michael Vick was drafted by the Falcons he did not become their instant starter. In fact, we barely even saw Vick play his first year in the league. Falcons' coach Dan Reeves had enough sense to give him time to get ready for the league.
And what happened to the phenomenal Michael Vick?
That's right; he got hurt in the preseason. Standouts like Vick and Clarett run rings around players in the college ranks. They are the best athletes on the field. The truth is that the NFL is full of guys like that. Everyone's good.
A certain mental maturity is also required in the NFL.
The prospect of handing a 19-year-old kid $10 million dollars is a lot different than handing $10 million to a 21-year-old. This is one reason why the NBA has a lot more non-game related incidences to deal with than the NFL.
To be fair to the NBA, they have taken a few 18-year-olds right out of high school and it has worked out fine. Take Kobe Bryant for example. OK, bad example.
The fact remains that college football and pro football are different games.
Major League Baseball has developed a wonderful farm system that allows rookie players to get their feet wet before they hit the big show. The NFL has a farm system also, it's called the NCAA.
The NFL effectively uses NCAA college football as a free farm system. Clarett is essentially trying to skip the farm system and go for the money. That's not how the game is played.
I can guarantee you that college football will not be taking Clarett's side on this. The NCAA likes the NFL's age rule. It keeps superstar football players in college longer and brings in more money to college football. This is a major reason why college football is so much bigger than college basketball or college baseball.
It is very common for high school baseball stars to enter the minor leagues and never attend college. This basically drains all the talent away from the college game. The same is true in college basketball, but to a lesser extent.
I assure you that the NCAA would much rather have had LeBron James play four years in college versus going straight to the NBA.