Learning the Lessons of Maurice Clarett

This has been said about Adrian Peterson: “Peterson set an NCAA freshman record with 1,925 rushing yards in 2004.”

I remember at the time, all the buzz was about how Peterson could have been a first-round NFL pick after his freshman season, how he could win multiple Heisman Trophies if he stayed in school. Well, he stayed in school some, but he’s coming out now. (Not that way, NTTAWWT).

The buzz didn’t really pan out, did it. Nowadays, I think we’re just a little too quick with the hype.

I’m not saying Peterson will be a bust, but there’s a reason once-in-a-lifetime things are called that: because they don’t really happen very often. Clarett was supposed to be the next great thing. Now he’s only playing football in a “The Longest Yard” kind of way (and on the wrong side). So was Peterson. Like I said, he may still turn out good, even great.

I remember when this started to get out of control: In 1993, Felipe Lopez, before ever playing a game in college, was on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Remember him?

Then there was the Sports Illustrated feature on Schea Cotton, when he was a freshman in high school. I’m still waiting for him to pan out:

If you’re familiar with California basketball lore, you’re familiar with the story of Schea Cotton. The guy who at one time was LeBron James before there was LeBron James, went from high school phenom with Sports Illustrated story coverage to forecasted first round draft pick in 2000… to the NBDL. He was never drafted, and as of yet, has never played in the NBA. Three years later he’s getting limited playing time at the end of the Clippers Summer Pro League bench, hoping for a chance at making the NBA. It doesn’t look good. (Written July 21, 2003, here).

I guess we just like to look forward. To know what’s coming, and celebrate the endless bounty of “potential.” It’s much easier to break records in our fantasy than in reality. And we love record-breakers. How much more so when we could say we knew it was coming. We knew this guy would be awesome. And we want to be able to say that we knew all along. And we want to feel some sort of ga’ava that we aren’t the last people on the bandwagon.

Because it’s great when we get it right. When people said the Chargers were crazy, and would regret trading the #1 overall pick in the 2001 NFL draft (which was used on Michael Vick) to drop to #5 and get LaDanian Tomlinson, I said history would tell on that one (I think it has). And then I made sure to get Tomlinson on my fantasy team in his rookie year. Because I got on the Tomlinson bandwagon right away, and I’ve never gotten off. (Not so much with Vick, thank G-d. Tomlinson was my guy from that draft. I said then, when the Chargers got LDT and Drew Brees with their first two picks that they were going to be in good shape for the future. I didn’t realize they’d give up on Brees. And they’re still #1 seed in the AFC. And Tomlinson and Brees were the top 2 MVPs in the league. And Tomlinson is setting records. He’s our once-in-a-generation guy.)

So we’ll keep looking. We’ll tout newcomers as the Next Great Thing. We’ll have entire magazines devoted to what’s coming Next. And we’ll be wrong more than we’re right. But we’ll love it when we’re right.


One response to “Learning the Lessons of Maurice Clarett

  1. Good post. Comparing Felippe and Lebron is the best example. The hype was similar – one will or may already be the best player in the league, one never had a good college career let alone NBA career. That’s why drafting out of highschool is a real risk – so many are busts. When Lebron was drafted I kept saying that I would have picked Carmello first b/c he had proved himself on the college level and I, being very conservative, would have been nervous drafting anyone from highschool. I think the key may be staying away from the Sports Illustrated curse.


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