OMAHA, Neb. – Maurice Clarett can't sign with the Omaha Nighthawks until team shows it has a support system in place for the former Ohio State star, the commissioner of the United Football League said Thursday.
"Just throwing him to the wolves, I wouldn't be interested in that," Michael Huyghue said.
Clarett was the marquee running back in college football in 2002, leading Ohio State to its first national championship in 34 years.
His star fell quickly amid myriad off-the-field troubles. He served 3½ years in prison for having a hidden gun and holding up two people outside a bar, then spent 4½ months in a community-based, lockdown dormitory.
Clarett called the Nighthawks recently asking for a chance, and an Ohio judge this week gave him permission to leave the state to attend an individual workout. The workout has been scheduled for Sunday and will be closed to the public and media.
"The level of success of the workout will determine whether or not a contract will be offered," the team said in a statement.
The five-team UFL is entering its second season and touts itself as a league for young players who couldn't quite make it in the NFL or veterans who are looking to get back to the league. Omaha's roster features Pro Bowlers in quarterback Jeff Garcia and running back Ahman Green.
If the Nighthawks want to sign Clarett, Huyghue said he would interview him to determine how sincere he is about making a football comeback. Huyghue said he would consider input from Nighthawks general manager Rick Mueller, coach Jeff Jagodzinski and veteran players.
"You have to build an infrastructure because it's a traumatic transition if you allow a player who spent three years in jail to come out and join a team," Huyghue said. "It's not just business as usual."
Green, an Omaha native who starred at Nebraska before his NFL days, plans to serve as Clarett's mentor. He said Clarett seems likable and determined.
"From our few conversations, it sounds like he's getting everything straight," Green said. "He really wants to play. All we have to do is see what kind of shape he's in and go from there."
Clarett attorneys Michael Hoague and Martin Midian didn't immediately return phone messages Thursday.
As a former NFL executive and player agent, Huyghue has been on both sides of issues involving troubled players.
When he was senior vice president of football operations for the Jacksonville Jaguars, he considered but decided against signing Lawrence Phillips, a former Husker running back who had numerous run-ins with the law and is now in prison.
Huyghue also is a former agent of Adam "Pac-Man" Jones, who was suspended by the NFL in 2007 and part of 2008 for his off-field conduct.
Huyghue said he understands the public-relations risk his fledgling league would be taking by allowing Clarett to play.
"It's important for us not to tarnish the reputation of this league," he said, "but we're also a league of second chances."