Report: Man not sure it was Clarett who robbed him

Updated: January 2, 2006, 7:55 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

As police continued to search for Maurice Clarett, a man who told police he was robbed in an alley behind a bar early Sunday says he doesn't know if it was the former Denver Broncos running back dressed in black who told him to empty his pockets.

Lucas Nyarko, 28, told The Columbus Dispatch that he hopes it was just someone who looked like the 22-year-old, who helped Ohio State win college football's national championship in 2002.

Nyarko told police he couldn't identify Clarett as the man who robbed him and his friend, The Dispatch reported.

But police continued searching for Clarett, who was accused of using a gun to rob Nyarko and a friend shortly before 2 a.m. Sunday. Nyarko said his friend identified Clarett after police showed her photographs, and police said the bar owner, who came outside during the robbery, knew Clarett.

Detectives are following up on tips on possible locations, said Sgt. Michael Woods, a police spokesman.

"But right now, none of those have proved of value," Woods said.

According to police, Clarett left in a white sport utility vehicle with two other men and took only a cell phone from his alleged victims, who were not injured. He was wanted on two counts of aggravated robbery.

Nyarko said he and his friend were approached by a man dressed in black, who told them he needed something. Nyarko said the man pulled up his shirt and showed them a gun tucked in his pants. The man moved the gun to the front of his waistband and told them to empty their pockets.

Nyarko said after he handed the man his cell phone, a woman came out of the bar and yelled, "Maurice!" in greeting to the man, who hugged her. He then carried the woman, who police said was bar owner Tashona Corvi, toward the SUV, put her down and got in the vehicle.

Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said he was "shocked" when he heard about the incident.

"Shocked. Hoping it's not true, and if it is, he'll have to deal with the consequences, which seem like they'll be very steep," Shanahan said Monday.

Hampered by a groin injury, Clarett didn't get much chance to perform in training camp and was released in Denver's first round of cuts. He never got another tryout.

Before Sunday's incident, Clarett was negotiating a deal and was likely going to sign with an NFL team on Monday, Josh Luchs, one of Clarett's agents, told ESPN The Magazine's Tom Friend. Clarett was expected to be allocated to NFL Europe if he signed, Friend reported, but his future now appears uncertain.

Clarett's cousin, Vince Marrow, told the Dispatch he spoke to Clarett's mother Sunday.

"She is shocked. She was getting ready to go to church and I told her there was an arrest warrant for Maurice. She was like, 'What?' " he said.

A message was left Sunday at Michelle Clarett's home in Youngstown.

Broncos safety Nick Ferguson said Clarett fit in OK with the team, mainly because it was hard not to, given the group of players in the Denver locker room.

"I found out the news this morning and it was shocking," Ferguson said. "I don't really know what's going on in his life. There's always a lot going on that we don't know about."

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said he was informed of the incident on his way to Sunday's Fiesta Bowl news conference in Scottsdale, Ariz.

"Obviously, my reaction to that is it's sad," Tressel said, "because, as I said the last few times people have brought up the subject, my hope would be that he would have an opportunity to go over to NFL Europe and make a comeback.

"I hope it's not true, but beyond that, I don't know much, but my reaction is, I was sad."

Clarett rushed for 1,237 yards and scored 16 touchdowns as a freshman. He sat out the 2003 season after he was charged with misdemeanor falsification for filing a police report claiming that more than $10,000 in clothing, CDs, cash and stereo equipment was stolen from a car he borrowed from a local dealership. He later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.

Ohio State suspended Clarett for misleading investigators, and for receiving special benefits worth thousands of dollars from a family friend.

In an interview with ESPN The Magazine in November 2004, Clarett said coaches and boosters arranged for him to get passing grades, cars and thousands of dollars while at Ohio State. None of the allegations were verified and Clarett never responded to NCAA requests to be interviewed about them as part of its investigation into Ohio State's athletic program.

Clarett also unsuccessfully challenged the NFL's requirement that players wait three years after high school before turning pro in a case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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