Ohio State football is special.

Ohio State football is great.

Ohio State football is the biggest.

These qualities have fostered a culture that breeds a unique athlete.

Call him the manipulative prima donna.

Maurice Clarett is just the latest reincarnation.

This is a relatively new phenomenon.

We've always had sports heroes. But add television, the erosion of civility and discipline, the influence of money, selfishness and greed, and the heroes are now more flawed.

This uniquely Ohio State football player first appeared in 1978 when Art Schlichter arrived.

He was a gifted multi-skilled Ohio high school athlete, and coach Woody Hayes was getting enormous pressure to sign Schlichter because of his ability to throw. Besides, Ohio State had scored only 12 points in its last two games, losses to Michigan (14-6) and Alabama (35-6) in the Sugar Bowl.

Schlichter knew that. He wanted assurances he could start his freshman year, though quarterback Rod Gerald, who led the team to a share of two straight Big Ten Championships, was returning for his senior season.

Gerald made it easy for everyone in scarlet and gray by stating he'd voluntarily switch to receiver, which he did.

The irony of it all was it was an interception thrown by the great-passing Schlichter that led to Hayes' meltdown at the ’78 Gator Bowl and subsequent firing.

The next prima donna was tailback Robert Smith.

You remember him. He caused a big brouhaha when he feuded with one of coach John Cooper's assistants. Smith became a media darling when he said that Ohio State's offseason practice requirements were preventing him from taking a required pre-med class. Here was a real student-athlete — the media bought hook, line and sinker — and all Ohio State was interested in was his being a piece of meat.

The assistant was fired, Smith turned pro after his junior year and didn't return to finish his degree. So much for the alleged student-athlete. So much for him becoming a doctor.

It didn't take quite as long for the next one to pop up.

Linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer, like Schlichter an Ohio and national prep phenom, said he'd sign with Ohio State if he got to wear his No. 45. At Ohio State, No. 45 is Archie Griffin, and though it had not been retired, no one had worn it since the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner removed his jersey for the last time in 1975.

Being a good soldier, Griffin said Katzenmoyer could.

But three seasons later, Katzenmoyer disgraced the number and brought shame upon Ohio State with his poor academic record. It was so bad and the courses he took so shameless the information was leaked to the news media.

Ohio State has now officially retired No. 45.

It won't be retiring Clarett's No. 13.

Consistent with all four of these uniquely Ohio State athletes is they're not dumb.

Clarett graduated from high school early so he could participate in spring ball last year.

But he's too smart for his own good. (Schlichter we later learned is a compulsive gambler). He loved the spotlight of being an idolized Ohio State athlete. And he thought he could get away with anything, though he's bright enough to know right from wrong.

None of these players had an ounce of humility while in Columbus.

Ohio State football is so big, so overwhelming not even an athletic director who previously ran Stanford or a football coach with old-fashioned I-wear-a-tie-on-game-day virtues can control it. The best they can do, pardons to ESPN's Dan Patrick, is try to contain it.

N.C. State offensive lineman Derek Morris, a 2002 Ohio State signee who was briefly enrolled while awaiting word on his eligibility, had some harsh words about the program early last month. While his perspective could be dismissed as perhaps sour grapes and conclusions drawn questioned because he wasn't in Columbus but for a few weeks, they shouldn't be totally ignored.

Quoted in the Charlotte News and Observer, Morris said, "I knew something was going to come up because that program is just backwards. I mean, they're always into something. Lying, cheating, not doing the things that a program is supposed to be doing. . . . I mean, I don't know what Maurice did or what they say he did, but a lot of that is on the environment of the program."

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