With Ronnie Brown possibly out for the season, Ricky Williams is back in the spotlight. Perhaps the extra attention will remind people how satisfying the final portion of Ricky’s NFL odyssey has been.
When Williams retired more than five years ago, no one would have thought he’d still be going strong at age 32.
More than three years have passed since his year-long suspension and a stint in the CFL; Now Williams is one of the better running backs in the league. (Williams currently has career highs in yards per carry and yards per catch. He’s on pace for 1,335 yards from scrimmage this year.)
There’s a reason why Williams has survived four coaching changes and front office upheavals in Miami. There’s also a reason Bill Parcells and G.M. Jeff Ireland made sure to retain Williams when they arrived, then happily to handed Ricky a two-year, $7.75 million contract after he turned 32.
Jason Taylor calls Williams one of the “one of the best teammates you’ll ever have.” Williams left the Dolphins the first time wondering if he loved football, and came back a hard-working, highly productive role player. “He went through what he had to go through, and he came back from it,” Taylor said.
While players younger than him have been declining for years, Williams has improved.
I was inspired to write this post after seeing Williams’ name oddly placed on Will Leitch’s excellent list of figures who had an awful decade for Deadspin. Curtis Ennis, William Green, and Ron Dayne had rough decades. So did Tim Couch and Akili Smith, taken ahead of Williams.
Williams has survived ridiculous expectations placed on him after Mike Ditka’s silly trade. With the help of his time away from football, he withstood after back-to-back seasons over 380 carries in the middle of the decade. (He led the league with 1,853 rushing yards in one of them.) There are probably aspects Williams would change about his career, but it’s hard to argue with the finish.
Of the 25 running backs drafted in 1999, only two are left: Williams and Kevin Faulk. Both are invaluable role players that would prefer to stay out of the spotlight. Starting Thursday night, Ricky is back in it whether he likes it or not.
I’m looking forward to watching the rest of his final act.