Troy and Maurice together again in Omaha
|UFL Virtual Football Cards featuring former Ohio State Buckeyes Troy Smith (above) and Maurice Clarett of the Omaha Nighthawks. Cards created by Bill Jones and Willie O’Burke.|
When Troy Smith joined the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League it signaled a reunion with another former Ohio State Buckeye.
After four seasons in the NFL, the 2006 Heisman Trophy was forced to join the UFL when he was not resigned by the San Fransisco 49ers. The signing opened the door for Smith and running back Maurice Clarett to finally be on the field at the same time.
The two could have been in the same backfield for Ohio State in 2004 if Clarett had avoided NCAA sanctions and played three years in Columbus. That is assuming Clarett’s presence didn’t help the development of Ohio State’s prized blue chip prospect Justin Zwick. Smith took over the starting job six games into the season when Zwick was injured and never game the job back.
Clarett, who helped lead Ohio State to a national championship in 2002, landed in Omaha after four years in prison for a chance to revive his playing career. After his dismissal from the school in 2003, He was a surprise third round selection of the Denver Broncos two years later, however he was cut before the start of the season.
Until being signed by the Nighthawks to be their backup running back behind former Green Bay Packer Ahman Green, Clarett’s only other football options had been talks with the Steubenville Stampede of the American Indoor Football League and the Mahoning Valley Hitmen of the semi-pro Eastern Indoor Football League.
During his first season in Omaha, Clarett rushed for 154 yards on the ground on 37 attempts and a touchdown. He also caught 12 passes for 98 yards, and returned one kickoff for 13 yards during the eight game season.
Smith and Clarett’s reunion did not last very long. The financially troubled UFL suspended operations after just four games. The four team league ended the season by playing a championship game and a consultation game. The latter featured the Sacramento Mountain Lions. Both teams entered the game with a 1-3 record.
Despite having experience in the NFL as starting quarterback with both the Baltimore Ravens and 49ers, Smith was buried on the Nighthawks depth chart behind fellow Heisman Trophy-winner Eric Crouch and Jeremiah Masoli.
It was not until the consultation game, that Smith got his first opportunity to start. He completed 17 of his 33 passes for 191 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in Omaha’s 25-19 loss.
Smith might be on his way back to playing in the NFL. He was signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers in January 2012 to a reserve/futures contract.
Clarett finished the five 2011 game season with 37 rushing attempts for 154 yards and a touchdown.