In honor of Ricky Williams’ retirement, we have posted the footage from one of the better interviews with him called the “Yoga Master” featuring NFL Network interviewer Terrell Davis
On Tuesday February 7th, one of the NFL’s most multifaceted players, both on and off the field, decided to call it a career. Sure a lot people will say that Errick Lynne “Ricky” Williams is just temporarily stepping away from football again to pursue some other interest. But this time many people around the National Football League believe that there will be no more “Run, Ricky, Run” on Sundays.
And at the NFL running back ancient age of thirty-four years, you have to believe that professional football’s “Vagabond Warrior” has finally found the piece of mind, body, and soul to move on to the next phase of his life. Strangely a career that started with him posing in a wedding dress with Saints former head coach Mike Ditka around the 1999 NFL Draft. And took him as far away from the league as the Australian Outback and North of the border to play as an NFL suspended outcast playing in the CFL. Then back to the heights of achieving the status of being the all-time leading rusher of the Miami Dolphins franchise. Then quietly ending with the Baltimore Ravens issuing a statement from the NFL’s Dalai Lama himself.
Williams wrote in the statement: “The NFL has been an amazing page in this chapter of my life. I pray that all successive adventures offer me the same potential for growth, success and most importantly, fun. … As for what’s next, I am excited about all the opportunities ahead — continuing my education, running The Ricky Williams Foundation and whatever other opportunities present themselves.”
Like one of his football heroes from a bygone era, former Cleveland Browns great Jim Brown, Williams decided that he would not be “married” to the game. And that football would only be one part of his being, which brought about a myriad of emotions from fans, coaches, and media. The range of emotions included joy, frustration, and admiration. He had the ability to be one of the games all-time best. But at times in his career that spanned 13 years, Williams made it known that he didn’t “need” football. Which had to frustrate a league and some head coaches that like to run their organizations in militaristic uniformity.
I have to chuckle when writing the word, “Uniformity”, in talking about Ricky Williams as nothing he did was common and will probably be never seen around the NFL again. Think about it, at one point he was the games biggest martyr as he stepped away from a multi-year, multi-million-dollar contract with the Dolphins, because he loved to smoke marijuana too much and also wanted to study holistic medicine. But then like Lazarus, Williams returned to pro football with a vengeance to earn the respect of the same fans, coaches, and media that one-time branded him a “Quitter” by leading the NFL in rushing.
In his last game, the recently played 2012 AFC Championship game, I found myself rooting for Williams’ Ravens squad to make to the Super Bowl, because of the respect that I have for him. Of course we know that the Patriots went on to win in a nail-biter, but Williams had already won much more than a game. During the 2011 season, in what would be his last in the NFL, the former Heisman Winner, who had been labeled everything from a superstar to a bum, had found solace on a veteran laden team that allowed Ricky to be Ricky.
Even though in the roster list showed a 34-year old back-up to Pro Bowl runner Ray Rice, Williams was able to become the unthinkable to some, a leader. His contribution to the Raven went far and beyond his stats of 444 rushing yards and 2 TDs as he mentored Rice and showed the meaning of what it is to be a “Pro”.
As his career was winding down, in a November interview – in the thralls of the Ravens’ playoff push – Williams ever being the warrior high priest reflected on playing in Baltimore. “It’s been interesting,” he said. “It’s been an adjustment for me, but I love the organization and I love my teammates so I’m having a good time. I’m enjoying myself. Anytime you play a team sport, the success of the team really makes everything better. It’s nice.”
He lastly added, “I have to thank coach (John) Harbaugh and the Ravens organization for the opportunity they gave me this year. I had so much fun and really appreciated the chance to finish on such a great note.”
The former fifth overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft’s final stats will say 147 games played, 2431 rushes for 10,009 yards, 66 TDs, and a respectable 4.1 yards per carry. With an additional 342 catches for 2606 yards and 8 TDs receiving. The former 1-time Pro Bowl player and All-Pro over an 11-year career had five 1,000-yard rushing seasons including leading the NFL rushing in 2002 with an astounding 1,853 rushing yards.
Many will debate the legacy of Ricky Williams, but to me, he was one of the greatest running backs that I have ever seen. Sure some will point to his non-conformity and his 52 career fumbles. However if you ever want to have some fun, watch his highlight reel, especially from 2002 and 2003. Then let me know if one day he deserves a spot with the all-time greats in Canton.
His career numbers – 26th player in NFL history over 10,000 yards rushing – definitely say that he does merit a look and hopefully one day, Williams will get his just due by being recognized as one of pro football’s elite. Heck if Floyd Little can be a Hall of Famer – no disrespect – then Ricky deserves to get a look to.
Rice said of his one season with Williams, “As a young player, you need to be around a guy who knows what he is doing, and Ricky was tremendous to learn from. The way he took care of his body and the way he prepared, he always showed that he is a true professional. This past season with him is a year I will never forget.”
So now it is “Rest, Ricky, Rest” time and many around the NFL will reflect on a man that was more than your typical dumb jock. And this time, it appears to be for good.
Also here is a link to probably the best interview that I have ever seen of Ricky Williams from Mike Wallace of CBS’ 60 Minutes http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=856389n