Ricky Williams. The enigmatic running back remembered by many as that one guy who retired from the NFL to burn trees. The Heisman Trophy winner, one time pride of the University of Texas and former first round pick has retired for the second, and seemingly last, time.
Since his NFL arrival in 1999 Ricky has gotten more attention for his personal qualities than his on field performances. The infamous bride and groom photo shoot with head coach Mike Ditka, his reluctance to speak to or make eye contact with reporters, the multiple failed drug tests and subsequent suspensions, his abrupt retirement in 2004 just days before training camp and his interest in holistic medicine; all of these things overshadowed Ricky’s talent, creating a public perception that the man was either selfish or misunderstood.
Whatever personal opinion one might have about Ricky I think it’s important to judge the man as a whole. And while some of his personal choices might not sit well with some, his productivity and accomplishments over his collegiate and 11-year NFL career should speak for themselves. As a Longhorn Ricky broke the all-time NCAA career rushing record, all-time NCAA career touchdown record and became the second college running back to rush for 200 or more yards in 12 different games. As a Saint, Dolphin, and Raven, Ricky rushed for 10,009 yards, becoming the 26th person in NFL history to break the 10,000 yard mark. Not too shabby for a pot head huh?
I enjoyed watching Ricky play and was happy to see him back in the league contributing to a team. His spot on the Baltimore roster was one more reason for me to cheer them on and I was disappointed when Ricky and his Ravens were denied a Super Bowl berth.
I’m sad to see him retire because I think he still has gas in the tank but in the end Ricky knows himself best, he always has. Maybe he’ll return again but if not I hope people remember him as more than just a pot smoker or eccentric personality. I hope they remember his athletic accomplishments and keep in mind that it takes hard work and dedication to do what he’s done.
He should be remembered for what he is, a complex man whose aspirations went beyond simply being a football player — a man willing to follow his chosen path even when he was ridiculed by those around him.
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