When he was in college, life was easy for Ricky Williams. He shattered or tied nearly every rushing record imaginable for the Texas Longhorns and established himself as one of the best running backs in college football history.
Dubbed the "Texas Tornado," Williams graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, which read, "How good is Ricky Williams? Even better than his stunning stats."
His stats were indeed just that, Williams danced through opposing defenses to the tune of 6,279 yards throughout his career at Texas. The fleet-footed California native was crowned the most prestigious award in college football in 1998—the Heisman Trophy. He became only the second player in Texas football history to win the honor, joining Earl Campbell.
Then, once he got to the pros, poor Ricky could never catch a break. First he had the weight of the world placed on his shoulders when in 1999, Saints' head coach Mike Ditka used his ONLY draft pick to select him. Then Ditka didn't make matters any better when he predicted that Williams would be the player to lead the dismal Saints to the Super Bowl.
Then when he signed rapper "Master P" as his agent, he signed an incentive-laden contract that only paid him just more than $200,000 after his rookie season. "Master P" was soon fired, and Leigh Steinberg, a much more respectable sports agent, was hired.
After rushing for more than 1,000 yards in his final two seasons with the Saints, Williams was traded to my beloved Dolphins in 2002. Things immediately started turning around for Williams in Miami.
He posted the best numbers of his career in 2003, gashing opposing defenses for 1,853 yards on the ground while piling up 16 touchdowns. He also hauled in 47 catches for 363 yards and a touchdown. His dazzling numbers punched him a ticket to the Pro Bowl—the first one of his career.
The next season, he rushed for more than 1,300 yards and snagged 50 catches for the 'Phins. He also racked up nine touchdowns on the ground, one through the air, and further cemented himself as one of the game's elite running backs.
Williams was criticized by many people in August of 2004, when he shockingly announced his retirement from the game of football. He would later admit that he didn't want to face the embarrassment of failing a third drug test for marijuana.
It turns out the "Texas Tornado" had a "tornado" of issues going on inside of him—including social anxiety and clinical depression, which he was using marijuana to treat.
Williams stayed out of football for a year, then finally decided to return for the 2005 season. Everything went smoothly until April of 2006, he was suspended by the NFL for testing positive for a drug other than marijuana.
Since he was suspended for the 2006 season, Williams went to the CFL to play for the Toronto Argonauts. He then suffered a broken bone in his left arm while facing the Saskatchewan Roughriders on July 22, 2006.
True to his form, Ricky Williams has always done things a little differently than the average person in the NFL. He loved Toronto so much when he played there because they allowed him to teach yoga. From all accounts, it sounded like he was really happy there.
He was finally re-instated to the NFL on November of 2007, but wasn't allowed to play in a game with the Dolphins until week 12 of the 2007 season.
He was injured near the end of the 2007 season, but fans got a glimpse of the Ricky of old last season.
During the 2008 campaign, Williams racked up 659 rushing yards while scoring five touchdowns. His reliable set of hands were on fine display once again, snagging 29 catches for more than 200 yards and one touchdown.
The highly publicized "Wildcat" formation suited him just perfectly, where Ronnie Brown took snaps out of the shotgun and Williams motioned across the line of scrimmage. Brown could either choose to hand it off to a full-speed Williams, fake it and run himself up the middle, or fake it and pass to another player.
The fact is, I'll always love Ricky Williams. What he's done for the Miami Dolphins, I'll never forget, nor should any Dolphins fan out there. Sure, he's had his number of issues off-the-field, but there's no denying his talent between the lines.
He's never committed any major crimes, and last time I checked Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson admitted to smoking weed, and he's still jumping to the moon and catching balls thrown anywhere in the same zip code.
Williams will forever be one of the best workhorse, all-purpose running backs the game of football has ever seen. It's amazing he can still play at such a high level with the volume of carries he's received. He's already up at 1,900 carries for his career.
He's already stated he wants to hang it up around 2011, and by that time his body will likely not be able to take much more. Luckily Ronnie Brown and the "Wildcat" formation are around to help ease the toll on his body.
That said, it will be exciting to see Ricky Williams finish his career with the Miami Dolphins. I'd love to see him play past 2011, but that's the life of a running back in the NFL.
After what Williams has already accomplished during his career with the Dolphins, I'll always be a fan.