Ricky being Ricky.
One of the best college football players ever, one of the best NFL running backs ever, has retired. Again. This time for the last time.
Ricky Williams was different.
He wasn’t just a football player. He was a philosopher. A world traveler. A free think. A pot smoker.
Ricky was always Ricky.
In college at Texas, he was nearly unstoppable. He rushed for 6592 yards rushing and 75 touchdowns during his four years as THE Longhorn. His powerful running style made him hard to handle on the gridiron. His strong will made him hard to handle off of it. It also led him to a Heisman Trophy in 1998.
In 1999, his talent led Mike Ditka to trade the entire bayou to draft him fifth overall. Their partnership was a strange one to say the least. The strangest part, the infamous ESPN The Magazine Cover with Ricky in a wedding dress.
But again, that was Ricky being Ricky.
After three years in Nawlins, Ricky changed the black and gold for the aqua and orange of the Miami Dolphins. In Miami, Ricky was loved and then hated and then loved again. He got suspended for smoking his marijuana and then retired because he chose getting high over getting paid. How many players would take that kind of stance? A year later he returned to the Dolphins, shaved his head and played like Ricky.
He spent his last year with the Baltimore Ravens running with and tutoring their future, Ray Rice. A successful year for both backs. Ricky finished his NFL career with over 10,000 yards. One of only twenty-six backs in the history of the league to join that elite club.
If you haven’t noticed yet, I have basically referred to Williams as Ricky throughout this column. There is a reason for that.
I met Ricky only once. His son went to school with my youngest and we were together to celebrate the boys’ graduation from kindergarten. His son was so excited to have my son meet his dad. So the three of us walked up to Ricky and my son was so excited to met him. Partially because he was meeting a friend’s father, partially because he was meeting his first ever professional athlete. Ricky was very shy and polite. Gave me a firm handshake and a heartfelt, “Nice to meet you.”
My son still excited about meeting Ricky, asked him for his autograph on his graduation ball that he was having all his friend’s sign. Ricky smiled, almost uncertain about how to handle the situation and took the ball from my son. He held it for a few seconds, then put marker to ball and returned it to him. Ricky just smiled and saying it was nice to meet both of us.
As we walked away, my son showed me his autographed ball. I looked at it and smiled.
Williams had signed it very simply.