RB Ground-Oriented When Traveling, Too

By RUSTY MILLER, AP Sports Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Ohio State standout running back Maurice Clarett is oriented to the ground even outside the stadium.

He's so afraid of flying he says he would drive to the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., if No. 5 Ohio State makes it all the way to the national title game.

"How do they know where they're going up in the clouds? There ain't no stop signs, no stop lights, nothing like that," he said. "It's kind of crazy, man, seriously."

The freshman has flown only once, to an all-star game in Texas in January. His next flight comes Friday when the Buckeyes (5-0) travel to Northwestern in suburban Chicago.

"I'm taking some Benadryl before I get on the plane," Clarett said. "I'm going to sleep."

Clarett (pictured, above) has already rushed for 575 yards in four games and has scored 10 touchdowns -- more than any Ohio State freshman since World War II.

Ohio State's previous road trip was just two hours away at Cincinnati. Clarett said he wished all of the road games could be reached by driving.

"If we packed up on the bus, I'd be smiling all the way," he said.

One reason Clarett selected Ohio State was because it is just a three-hour drive from his home in Youngstown. Even though he was recruited by most of the top schools in the country, he didn't make any other official visits because of his fear of flying.

Clarett said he's figured out what bothers him about being in airplanes.

"Oh, man, I need to be in control," he said. "If I was up there in the pilot's thing, controlling it, I might be happy."

Laughing, he added, "It's all about the pilot. He makes the wrong turn or something, man, this will be my last interview."

Ohio State quarterback Craig Krenzel said he might offer Clarett a book, a video game or some headphones during the flight to Northwestern.

Told that the running back planned to take something to help him sleep, Krenzel laughed and said, "You pick your poison, I guess. As long as he's ready on Saturday."

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)