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Ricky Williams talks about career, new position

RICKY WILLIAMS

Football enigma Ricky Williams will be making a return to the gridiron for the 2013 season….sort of.

This fall he will be joining the Longhorn Network as a pre-game analyst for The Longhorn Network and he will be working as a part-time coach at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio.

“I’m excited to be an analyst. It’s good to talk about football again,” Williams said. “I’m looking forward to it and it’ll be good to be back.”

Born Errick Lynne “Ricky” Williams, Jr., the former American football running back played 11 seasons in the NFL and one season in the Canadian Football League after following a stellar college sports career.

After he was recruited to the University of Texas, the San Diego native joined the Texas Longhorn football team from 1995 to 1998 and became a two-time All American at the school. The Texas Tornado shattered or tied numerous long-standing records, holds or shares 20 NCAA records, and won the coveted Heisman Trophy.

His spectacular accolades in college caught the attention of the National Football League. Williams became the fifth pick in the first round of the 1999 NFL Draft by the-then New Orleans Saints head coach, Western Pennsylvania native, Mike Ditka.

Ditka believed so firmly in Williams’ abilities to be able to turn the failing Saint’s franchise around that he traded all of the Saints’ 1999 draft picks to the Washington Red Skins to secure Williams. Later that year, he and Ditka posed on the cover of ESPN The Magazine as a bride and groom.

No Limit Sports headed by music mogul Master P a.ka. Percy Miller negotiated Williams’ contract. The document was incentive driven and Williams received an $8 million signing bonus with salary incentives that ranged from $11 million to $68 million if all of the incentives—albeit impossible to reach—were attained. Williams fired  No Limit Sports.

Williams managed two 1,000 yard seasons in 2000 and 2001 and in the year 2000 he rushed for 1000 yards and scored nine touchdowns in 10 games. He missed the Saints’ last six games and the playoffs because of an injury. The Saints finished their 2000 regular season with a 10-6 record and won the franchise’s first playoff game against the St. Louis Rams.

Williams’ most successful time with the New Orleans Saints came in 2001 when he rushed 1,245 yards and caught 60 passes for 511 rushing yards.

Still, it wasn’t enough to resurrect the New Orleans Saints dismal record. Ditka was fired for the Saints’  somber performance.

“I was a high-level athlete and I was honored that Ditka picked me. I thought I deserved it and I thought I should have been the first pick,” Williams said.

Although he felt blessed to be chosen by the New Orleans Saints, Williams found NFL football a totally different animal than college ball.

“At the University of Texas they cared about the players and at the NFL I felt like a piece of meat,” Williams explained. “People worship athletes but they don’t get up to achieve what the athletes achieve on the field.”

After spending three years with the Saints, Williams was traded to the Miami Dolphins in 2002 for four draft picks, including two first-round draft picks.

During his first season with Dolphins, Williams was the league’s leading rusher with 1,853 yards, a First Team All-Pro and a Pro Bowler. At the end of 2003, Williams tested positive for marijuana use and was slapped with a $650,000 fine and a four-game suspension because he violated the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Before the start of training camp in 2004, Williams announced his subsequent retirement from professional football. He was ineligible to play for the 2004 season and thus enrolled at the California College of Ayurveda and traveled abroad to such places as India to study the holistic medicine.

“I had never practiced yoga before,” explained Williams who became a professional yoga instructor in 2005 and a licensed massage therapist. “With yoga the physical stuff like my shoulder and knee pain disappeared.” The Dolphins finished the 2004 season with a 4-12 record.

Williams returned to the NFL and the Miami Dolphins in 2005, repaid a portion of his signing bonus and completed his quadruple game suspension for the NFL drug violation. He completed the season with six touchdowns, and a 4.4 yards carry per average on 168 carries and 743 yards.

A year later the NFL made public that Williams again violated the organization’s drug policy and he was suspended for the entire 2006 season. Despite his troubles, Williams was recruited by Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts. The Dolphins agreed to let Williams play for the team for a year on the condition that he would don the Dolphins uniform again in 2007.

While playing for the Argonauts, Williams became the highest-paid running back in the CFL with a $240,000 contract. In his June 2006 debut during a home game against the Tiger-Cats, he rushed for 97 yards on 18 carries, his longest one being 35 yards during the final quarter of the game. During the 11 games Williams played during the CFL regular season, he rushed 109 times for 526 yards, scored two touchdowns with a long run of 35 yards. For 127 yards he caught 19 passes.

In 2007 at the start of the CFL season, then commissioner Tom Wright instituted the “Ricky Williams Rule,” which would prevent a player that is currently suspended by the NFL from signing with a CFL team. The rule was grandfathered so that NFL players who were suspended for drug abuse and didn’t look to get reinstated when their suspension was up could keep playing.

Williams was reinstated into the NFL in October of 2007 and he played in a Monday Night Football game the end of November. He rushed six times, gaining 15 yards before Steelers Linebacker Lawrence Timmons stepped on his shoulder, tearing his pectoral muscle. It was soon reported that he would miss the rest of the season and was placed on injured reserve.

Williams was named as starter of the remainder of the 2009 season after a Dolphins teammate suffered an injury. He reached 1,000 yards rushing and set a record for the longest span between 1,000 yard seasons in six years. In 2010, Williams carried 159 times for 673 yards and scored two touchdowns for the Dolphins.

In August of 2011, Williams signed a 24-month $2.5 million contract with the Baltimore Ravens. By January of 2012, he had surpassed the 10,000 career rushing yards mark making him the 26th player in the NFL to attain such a feat. A month later he informed the Ravens of his retirement from the NFL.

“I retired from football because I could. I don’t look for reasons to do things. I do them because they are fun,” Williams said. “The first time I retired from football I traveled abroad and when I came back to the states I didn’t think I’d return to football but I did come back.

“I understand that the NFL is a business and that football is a violent and physical game. It’s pretty obvious the players have to take care of themselves and try to eliminate some of the hits (that cause concussions) but the hits are why people are watching the game,” Williams continued. “One cool thing is to see where football is heading in the future.”

 

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