Ricky Williams

Ricky Williams

[wil-yuhmz]

Errick Lynne Williams, Jr. (born May 21, 1977 in San Diego, California) is an American football running back for the Miami Dolphins of the National Football League. He was drafted by the New Orleans Saints fifth overall in the 1999 NFL Draft. He played college football at Texas.

Early life

Williams was born, along with his twin sister Cassandra, in San Diego, California. He was born to relatively young parents, who ultimately separated when he was six years old. His mother was awarded custody of Williams and his siblings, Cassandra (Cassie) and Rebecca (Nisey). In San Diego's Patrick Henry High School, Williams primarily played baseball and football, but also ran track and wrestled. On the football field, Williams gained 2,099 yards and scored 25 touchdowns. He was named "Offensive Player of the Year" by the San Diego Union-Tribune.

College career

Williams was selected out of Patrick Henry High School in the 8th round of the 1995 baseball amateur draft by the Philadelphia Phillies, and played four years at the Class 'A' level with the Batavia Muckdogs of the New York-Penn League and the Piedmont Boll Weevils of the South Atlantic League. He was then taken in the 1998 Rule 5 draft by the Montreal Expos, who sold his rights to the Texas Rangers.

He played college football for the University of Texas at Austin. Williams holds or shares 20 NCAA records, and became the NCAA Division I-A career rushing leader in 1998 with 6,279 yards (broken one year later by University of Wisconsin-Madison's Ron Dayne). Williams had a sensational senior season, highlighted by rushing for nine touchdowns and 385 yards in the season's first two games; rushing for 318 yards and six touchdowns against Rice; rushing for 350 yards and five touchdowns against Iowa St; and rushing for 150 yards against Nebraska's legendary Black Shirt defense. He also helped beat long time rival Oklahoma rushing for 166 rushing yards and two scores.

Williams broke the career rushing record during the annual rivalry game held the day after Thanksgiving (this particular year fell on November 27th, 1998) between Texas and Texas A&M. Needing only 63 yards to break Tony Dorsett's 22-year old NCAA Division 1-A all-time rushing record (6,082), Ricky Williams approached the line of scrimmage with 1:45 seconds left in the first quarter having already rushed for 54 yards. At first and ten on the Texas forty yard line, quarterback Major Applewhite handed off to Williams who broke two tackles, sprinted into open field and received a down field block from receiver Wane McGarity for a 60-yard touchdown run and the record. Williams' record-breaking run gave Texas a 10-0 lead in its eventual 26-24 upset of sixth-ranked Texas A&M. He finished the game racking up 295 yards. He also broke the NCAA Division I-A career rushing touchdowns and career scoring records in 1998 with 73 and 452 respectively (topped one year later by Miami University's Travis Prentice), and rushed for 200 or more yards in twelve different games (an NCAA record he shares with Dayne and USC's Marcus Allen). Williams won the 64th Heisman Trophy, becoming the second Texas Longhorn to win this honor, joining Earl Campbell. Williams was sometimes known as the "Texas Tornado.

Professional career

Early NFL career

Williams was selected as the fifth pick of the 1999 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints. Head coach Mike Ditka traded all of the Saints' 1999 draft picks to get Williams, as well as a 1st and 3rd pick the following year. This was the first time one player was the only draft pick of an NFL team. Williams and Ditka posed for the cover of ESPN The Magazine as a bride and a groom with the heading "For Better or for Worse." Rapper Master P's (a.k.a. Percy Miller's) organization No Limit Sports negotiated his contract, which was largely incentive-laden in exchange for an $8M-plus signing bonus with salary incentives worth a range of $11 million to $68 million should he hit all of his incentives, with most of them requiring higher than top-level production to attain. Williams later made Leigh Steinberg his agent. Ditka was later fired for the team's poor performance, and Williams was traded after 3 seasons to the Miami Dolphins on March 8, 2002 for two first-round picks. In his first season with the Dolphins, he was the NFL's leading rusher and a Pro Bowler with 1,853 yards.

Williams was noted for his dreadlocks, but shaved them off during a solo trip to Australia. His shyness also makes Williams appear somewhat of an odd ball. "Ricky's just a different guy," former Saints receiver Joe Horn explained. "People he wanted to deal with, he did. And people he wanted to have nothing to do with, he didn't. No one could understand that. I don't think guys in the locker room could grasp that he wanted to be to himself, you know, quiet. If you didn't understand him and didn't know what he was about, it always kept people in suspense." Besides keeping to himself, Williams was also known for conducting post-game interviews with his helmet on (complete with tinted visor) and avoiding eye contact. Williams was later diagnosed with depression and social anxiety disorder.

Early retirement from football

It was announced on May 14, 2004 that he tested positive for marijuana in December 2003 and faced a $650,000 fine and a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. He previously tested positive for marijuana shortly after he joined the Dolphins, along with former punter Andrew Tomasjewski. Shortly before training camp was to begin in July 2004, Williams publicly disclosed his intent to retire from professional football.

Rumored to have failed a third drug test before announcing his retirement, Williams made his retirement official on August 2, 2004, was ineligible to play for the 2004 season, and studied Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of holistic medicine at the California College of Ayurveda that autumn in Grass Valley, California.

During that year he retired, the Miami Dolphins finished the season in second to last place with a 4-12 record and the second pick of the 2005 NFL Draft, in which they would select Williams' successor Ronnie Brown. This was one of the events of the final year of Dave Wannstedt's coaching tenure before his resignation.

Williams maintains that he doesn't regret the retirement decision. He feels that it was the "most positive thing" he has ever done in his life, allowing him time to find himself.

Return to football

Williams officially returned to the Dolphins on July 24, 2005, paid back a percentage of his signing bonus and completed his four game suspension for substance abuse. At his return press conference, Williams expressed his apologies for leaving the team two days before the start of training camp, which had contributed to the Dolphins' having their worst season in years, only winning 4 games in the 2004 season. Williams finished with six touchdowns and a 4.4 yards per carry average on 168 carries and 743 yards during 2005. While he shared time with Brown, he did have 172 yards in week 16, and 108 yards in week 17.

On February 20, 2006, it was announced that Williams had violated the NFL drug policy for the fourth time. His mother reportedly said she doesn't think it was another marijuana violation and that he may have been in India when he was supposed to be tested. Nevertheless, on April 25, 2006, Williams was suspended for the entire 2006 season for testing positive for a drug other than marijuana. It has been suggested that the substance may have been an herb related to his interest in holistic medicine.

Canadian Football League

With Williams suspended for the entire 2006 NFL season, the CFL's Toronto Argonauts decided to put Williams on the negotiation list for the 2006 season. This guaranteed that the team would become the rightful CFL organization to negotiate with Williams if his NFL contract be terminated at any point in time. The Dolphins allowed Williams to play for the Argonauts on the condition that he would return to them in 2007.

On May 28, 2006 Williams became the highest paid running back in the CFL when he signed a one-year C$240,000 contract with the Argonauts. He chose to wear the number 27 on his jersey.

The signing drew the ire of former Argonauts quarterback Joe Theismann. On May 30, 2006, Theismann was interviewed by Toronto radio station The Fan 590 whereupon he criticized the Argonauts for signing the suspended Williams. Theismann claimed he was disgraced to be associated with a team that would knowingly sign "an addict" such as Williams. The CFL has no substance-abuse policy currently in place, nor did it prohibit its teams from signing players suspended from other leagues, despite Williams being under contract with the Dolphins for the 2006 season.

Argo ownership responded to Theismann's criticism, noting Theismann's son, Joe, pleaded guilty in 2002 to a felony charge of possessing drug paraphernalia. He received a 10-year suspended prison term, was placed on five years of probation and fined. "It's really a delicate subject for him to attack someone if he has that in his own family," Argo co-owner Cynamon said. "If I was his son and he's calling (Williams) a drug addict and he should quit and he's a loser, I'd be shattered. This thing is really bothersome.

Williams made his official CFL debut on June 17, 2006 in a home game against the Tiger-Cats at the Rogers Centre. In that game, he rushed for 97 yards on 18 carries, with his longest carry for 35 yards in the fourth quarter. Williams also caught two passes for 24 yards as the Argonauts defeated the Tiger-Cats by a score of 27-17.

On July 22, 2006, Williams suffered a broken bone in his left arm during a game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Regina, Saskatchewan. He underwent surgery on July 23, 2006 to repair the broken bone. Shortly after injuring his arm, Williams' suffered yet another injury after a door at the Argonauts' practice facility swung behind him and clipped the running back on his left achilles tendon requiring 16 stitches to close the gash. During his recovery, Williams received hyperbaric oxygen therapy in St. Catharines, Ontario to expedite his return from injury. In all, Williams missed two months of game action because of the injuries, returning on September 23, 2006 against the Calgary Stampeders.

In the 11 games that he played during 2006 CFL regular season, Williams rushed 109 times for 526 yards, scoring 2 TDs and his longest run was 35 yards. He also caught 19 passes for 127 yards.

Williams stated his love for Toronto and mentioned the possibility of returning to the Canadian game during his professional career. "I was thinking it wouldn't be bad to come back up here and kind of follow the same steps as Pinner -- play here a couple years and maybe get a chance to coach up here," Williams said. "Because I really like Toronto, I really like this organization ... you can live here, you know? You feel like you have a life. I come to work, I go home, play with my kid, walk to the store. It's really nice. I get to teach. It's wonderful here." In another interview, he expressed further desire to remain in the CFL, "If I came back here, you can put me anywhere," he says. "Up here, I can play offense, defense, special teams. I can do everything. I can block, play tight end, running back, receiver — even play the line. The NFL is so structured — 'You do this.' Here I can do so much.

The controversy over the Argonauts signing Williams prompted outgoing CFL commissioner Tom Wright, in his final state of the league address, to introduce a new rule that would come in effect before the start of the 2007 CFL season that would prevent a player under suspension in the NFL from signing with a CFL club. This rule has been informally known as "The Ricky Williams Rule."

The new rule, however, will be grandfathered so that players still playing in the league, such as Argonaut tackle Bernard Williams, who was also suspended by the NFL for drug abuse and did not seek reinstatement when the ban ended, can continue playing.

Second return

Williams adhered to a strict regimen of multiple drug tests per week in 2007 as part of his attempt to be reinstated by the NFL. He also practiced yoga, which, he claimed, helped him to stop using marijuana. In October 2007, Roger Goodell granted his request for reinstatement. Williams returned for a Monday Night Football Game on November 26, 2007. He rushed 6 times for 15 yards before a Steeler defender accidentally stepped on his right shoulder, tearing his pectoral muscle. The next day it was reported that he would miss the rest of the season, although he expects to be ready for the 2008 season.

Timeline and rumors

On April 19 2007, St. Louis Rams coach Scott Linehan said that he would consider acquiring Williams as a backup to Steven Jackson. "He's proven himself with me" said Linehan, who coached him as an offensive coordinator in 2005 with the Dolphins. There is no word on whether the Dolphins will pursue tampering charges against the Rams, as it is against NFL rules to discuss players under contract with another team.

On May 11 2007, an anonymous source reported that Williams had failed a drug test again. The source indicated that NFL medical advisors have recommended to the commissioner that Williams not be allowed to apply for reinstatement in September.

The NFL has made no comment, nor have the Miami Dolphins. Williams did make a comment: "Due to the recent reports about me failing a drug test, I feel it is appropriate for me to issue this statement," Williams said. "Last month, following a psychological evaluation requested by the NFL, we — the psychiatrist and I — came to the realization that there were a few things I needed to iron out about myself in order to make my return to the NFL as successful as possible.

"I am an honest, God-fearing man who is intensely dedicated to being the best person I can be on and off the football field. There is no need to smear my name or to defame my character for the sake of news. When the time is right, God willing, I will be back on the field scoring touchdowns for whatever team is fortunate enough to believe in me.

"I appreciate all the support I have received from my fans," Williams said, "and I assure all others that I am strong, clean, and happily preparing myself for a triumphant return to the NFL."

Williams applied for reinstatement in the NFL on October 1, 2007. ESPN News announced on Wednesday, November 14, 2007 that Ricky Williams will be reinstated into the NFL. Williams is allowed to practice with his team, but he will not be eligible to play in a game until Week 12 of the 2007 NFL season.

On November 26, 2007, the Miami Dolphins activated Williams to their active roster. He played in Miami's Week 12 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football. Williams split time with RB Jesse Chatman in his first game back, and did not receive the start. Due to the wet conditions and a well placed hit by James Farrior, Williams fumbled on a third down attempt. Williams returned to the locker room during the 2nd Quarter with a shoulder injury incurred after Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons stepped on his shoulder in pursuit of the Williams fumble. The Dolphins ended up losing 0-3 in the lowest scoring game in Monday Night Football history.

On November 28, 2007, Ricky Williams was placed on Injured Reserve (IR) as it was reported that he would be out for the remainder of the 2007 NFL season with a torn chest muscle which he suffered in Miami's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. In that game, Ricky Williams had 6 carries for 15 yards, and the injury came when Ricky Williams fumbled the ball and was stepped on by a Pittsburgh defender.

On January 3, 2008, Ricky Williams had his contract "renewed" by the Miami Dolphins. The agent for Williams said his client is healing nicely and should be healthy well before training camp. Williams is expected to start the season with Ronnie Brown as his backup .

On August 31, 2008 ESPN's Chris Mortensen reports the Miami Dolphins have signed RB Ricky Williams to a one-year contract extension. He is now under contract through the 2009 season.

As of September 6, 2008, Williams has been named as the starting Dolphins running back for the 2008 season opener against the New York Jets.

Personal life

Williams has admitted being very shy and was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, which he struggled to cope with during his football career. Williams was treated with therapy and medication. To alleviate his symptoms, he smoked marijuana illegally during the NFL football season and was consequently penalized.

Williams was briefly a spokesperson for the drug Paxil as treatment. He worked with the drug company GlaxoSmithKline to educate the public about the disorder. Williams later quit Paxil saying the drug didn't agree with his diet.

Williams said marijuana had been a better treatment since it produced fewer side effects (than Paxil). In an interview with ESPN, Williams stated, "Marijuana is 10 times better for me than Paxil."

Williams admitted in a 60 Minutes interview that one of the main reasons for his retirement was to avoid the humiliation of his marijuana use being made public (with his third failed drug test). After his retirement he quickly went to California to get a prescription for medical marijuana (which he had no problem securing). In 2006 he claimed he no longer needs marijuana but doesn't criticize others' choices on the matter. In April 2007, however, he reportedly tested positive for marijuana.

Williams is a qualified yoga instructor. He has stated that one of his main reasons for joining the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts was for the opportunity to teach free yoga lessons at a local Toronto yoga facility. Also, he is a confirmed Hindu.. Williams has four children. Williams is a vegetarian, and a supporter of PETA

In the media

  • He appeared in an infomercial for Natural Golf alongside Mike Ditka.
  • HBO's Inside the NFL had a skit about Williams trying to return to the Dolphins. It featured him trying to raise $8.6 million, avoiding drug tests, and even asking Dan Marino to return with him.
  • His likeness appeared on the cover of the original NFL Street.
  • He played a cameo role in the feature film Stuck on You
  • He makes an appearance on the third season of the physical reality game show, Pros vs. Joes on SpikeTV

References

Further reading

See also

External links

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