A Message for Running Backs: Remember Ricky Williams

Joe WillettSenior Writer IJuly 7, 2008

If you look at Ricky Williams' stats this past season, you will look at a player that didn't play a lot. He only played in one game with six attempts for 15 yards.

If you don't know anything about football, maybe you are a new fan, you might think, why is this guy getting the time of day?

Well, he is getting this time because he was going to be great. Not even going to be great, he was great.

If you look over his career rushing totals, you can see a player that progressed quickly and greatly, then regressed even faster.

But he was more than a football player. He was an all-around athlete.

Not only was he possibly one of the best power rushers of all time, he was selected in the eighth round of the amateur MLB Draft and played four years at Class-A for the Philadelphia Phillies.

But football was the sport he had chosen to play, and it was chosen for him to play by the football gods.

He went to the University of Texas where he dominated pretty much every aspect of football. 

During his time, he broke or tied 20 D-1 rushing records.

Then, he came into the pros, ready to dominate the way that he did in college, and he did just that

In his rookie year, he was good, but not great. He averaged 3.5 yards per carry and had 884 yards for the season, along with two touchdowns.

In his second year, he took over the reigns and started his run towards spectacular. In just 10 games, he ran for exactly 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns, while averaging four yards per carry.

In his third year, he didn't just reach 1,000 yards, he broke it, running for 1,245 yards, six touchdowns, and four yards per carry again.

Then came the fourth year.

The make-or-break year for any great prospect. If he performs now, he is going to have a great career. If he takes another step back, he is destined for a career of mediocrity.

He performed.

1,853 yards, 16 touchdowns, 4.5 ypc, seven runs over 20 yards, and he completely dominated the competition, with 115.8 yards per game.

Then, he started to fall apart.

He was still good the next season, but he dropped off 500 yards from his previous rushing total. He also dropped by seven touchdowns and fell to 3.5 ypc, equaling his rookie total.

During that offseason, he was hit with a positive test for marijuana, his second failed test. He was fined $650,000 and suspended for four games.

But before the suspension, he released information that he was retiring from the league. He left to study Ayurveda, an ancient Indian art of holistic medicine.

In his time off, he "found himself," and said that he doesn't regret the decision at all.

However, the pot smoking and early retirement killed his career. In his first year back, he averaged 4.4 ypc and ran for 743 yards. He seemed like he was well on his way back towards greatness.

But fate would have it differently.

He tested positive for a fourth marijuana test, and was consequently suspended for the 2006 season.

In his year off, he signed a contract to play for a Canadian football team, and ran for 526 yards on 109 carries over 11 games, and changed the CFL.

Because of his time in Canada, the CFL created a rule stating that players under NFL suspension are not able to sign contracts to play in the CFL, which was dubbed, "The Ricky Williams Rule."

Williams returned to the NFL in 2007 and ran six times for 15 yards before being injured and placed on IR.

Williams is expected to be the back up for Ronnie Brown for the '08-'09 season on the Miami Dolphins.

This is a warning to aspiring running backs. Do not let bad influences ruin your life and your career.

Williams is just one example of players who get caught up in bad practices that cost them their chance to be a great player.

If you can filter out bad influences, you can become a true success, along with players like Caron Butler, who overcame a childhood where he had to sell drugs, to become an All-Star player.

I'm Joe W.


Joe also writes for TheDailyCub.com, a Chicago Cubs blog.