Sometimes, it takes the opinion of someone you truly respect to make you realize what you really want to do in a situation is quite different than what you feel like you are supposed to do.
I was really excited to express to him how excited I was about football and about the way the season ended and how much I was looking forward to coming back, and his reply kind of shook me a little bit. He said, 'Well, that's good to hear. You know, don't chase this thing too long. You can contribute in other ways.'
It also seemed as if Williams played football primarily because he was amazing at the game and could thus earn a lucrative salary while playing, not because he truly loved the game. No harm in that.
So it makes sense that when a respected voice such as Parcells would tell him to make sure he wasn't playing too long, he would evaluate his situation and realize there were other things in life he wanted to do. Williams said:
I allowed myself to think if I could be doing anything in the world, what would I be doing? And what came to mind is I'd be traveling a little bit, I'd be going to classes and I'd be going back to school.
So I weighed what is it going to feel like to be on a football field next year and what is it going to feel like doing the things I want to do, and it just felt lighter, more expansive to be doing the things I want to do.
A football season is a huge mental, physical and even emotional commitment, and if you're going to be turning 35 in May and have already reached a point in your career when you've rushed for over 10,000 yards and are now simply a backup, it's important to weigh very carefully why exactly you are returning for another season.
What would you have done if you were Ricky Williams?
If you still have a passion for the game, you should play until you are unwanted. You only get one shot to live your dream, after all.
But, if like Williams you have other passions and you've already accomplished so much at the NFL level, why put yourself through another season of physical wear and tear?
So good for you, Ricky Williams, for being able to recognize the right time for you to move on in life, and to recognize when a mentor's words are guiding you toward what you wanted in the first place.
Enjoy your freedom.
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