More than 300 people packed into Shiloh Chapel in Marysville Jan. 12 to hear former Ohio State football players Maurice Clarett and Roy Hall share positive messages of triumph over trouble.
After playing at OSU, Hall was a fifth-round National Football League draft pick in 2007 and played three seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. His work off the field included founding the non-profit organization, "Driven." The foundation supports communities with programs and events geared to strengthen families.
He also stepped in to be a friend and a guide to Clarett, one of OSU's most controversial stars.
Hall introduced the former running back to the crowd Saturday alluding to the pressures of constant media attention as a teenager and the affect it had on Clarett.
Clarett went on to explain how he came to be a controversial figure and how Hall's friendship has helped him follow a different path.
Clarett explained how easy it was for a kid from the streets of Youngstown to be led in the wrong direction.
"Growing up was just a state of confusion," he said. "Nonsense and ignorance is kind of the culture in the city. When you're growing up, what is learned or taught on a subconscious level becomes normal."
When he arrived at Ohio State that normal became the unusual. He felt confused about his relationship with God and had no sense of direction, no guidance and that lack of focus manifested in front of 100,000 people, he said.
"I had more access to anything from sex to drugs, partying, to all the worldly things that anybody at 18 would fall victim to with no direction. There was always something inside me. I knew I was in the wrong place. I knew there was more for me in life."
He said over time he heard God telling him there was more to life.
"But I never had the courage to stand up and face it," he said. "I never knew how to take the steps."
After an explosive performance in the 2002 national championship game against Miami he was suspended for filing a false police report and lying to the NCAA. Trouble followed him and Clarett served more than three years in prison on robbery and gun charges.
Clarett said he spent that time in prison reexamining his life, his actions, and his character. And he remembers seeing his mother on TV.
"In one moment I saw the hurt on my mom's face. I saw my mom on TV crying and as a child I felt like I disappointed her. I let so many people down."
"Through the course of time I began to read and educate myself," he said. "I became more conscious of how I affected other people. I became more responsible. I started what I call a 'baby' relationship with Christ."
When he got out of prison he went back to OSU and enrolled in class and connected with Hall, an old teammate.
Hall asked about his well-being and meant it, Clarett said. He then committed to building a relationship with Clarett and drove 30 minutes every day to take Clarett to school.
"It meant something to me for somebody to give me attention to help me, fellowship with and assist me in the process. From there God blessed me and took me out to Omaha."
Hall and Clarett both played for the Omaha Nighthawks in the United Football League. The continued exposure to Hall's positive attitude was a divine intervention for Clarett, he said.
"Every day I would see Roy digging in his Bible, digging through the information, always positive, always upbeat. I think that was God placing him in my life to show me what it was I needed and he was right next to me to move me to new levels of life and to experience more fulfillment."
Hall continued to get Clarett involved in church and Bible studies. All the while they talked about what they could do to help the community and children.
"I want to share my testimony. How to be strong in Christ or how to build a relationship. How do you cultivate it, how do you stay entrenched in it," said Clarett.
"Everything great that happened in my life; everything from my finances, to my opportunities to provide for myself, to my housing, to the vehicles I'm driving all stems from having a relationship with the Lord and being entrenched in church. Everything that is a hindrance and moving me backwards is full of the world," said Clarett.
While Clarett points to the negative effects of the media attention at the age of 18, he says they were just doing their job.
"I say the same thing over and over: I put myself in those situations," said Clarett.
Now, he even thanks the media for the platform and exposure.
"I say it from the heart. I'm not a knuckle head. Did I do some things that were definitely irresponsible? Absolutely. (But) I'm happy where I'm at right now. I'm at peace," said Clarett.