If you thought Ricky Williams might be missing football, think again.
The former Saints, Dolphins and Ravens running back, now a retired free spirit, said his job of the previous 13 year never appealed to him. Of course, that’s why there were absences in those 13 years as well.
“I made the same mistake in my life of choosing something I didn’t want,” Williams told Dave Hyde of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “I didn’t want to play pro football. Even when I did play, I didn’t have the motivation to achieve at first. I learned the first time I quit [with the Dolphins in 2004] that I needed to put it into perspective.
“I allowed football from then on to contribute to myself. I think that’s why a lot of players have so much difficulty after they stop playing. The way I look at it is, if all you can be is a football player, you have to keep concussions and injuries to prove your football worth.”
Williams might not have been cut out for the regimented mentality (or drug testing policies) of a football existence, but he was really good at football. He rushed for 10,009 yards and 66 touchdowns, and could have had many more of each if he burned as hot for the sport as he does self-examination.
“I look back at it, and I’m not talking about football players or the media specificially,” he says. “I’m talking about the expectation for football players. I had to dumb myself down to fit in.
“I shouldn’t said I ‘had’ to do it. I allowed myself to do it. I didn’t want to stand out anymore than I already did. I allowed myself to act that way.”
He already stood out, by practicing yoga, studying massage and leading meditation classes.
And since retiring in January, Williams has made stops in Australia, Italy, New Zealand and Mexico, exercising what he calls his “spiritual brain.” Now he’s leading discussions called “Limitless Life” and “Access Consciousness.”
It’s easy to dismiss Williams as a flake or a marijuana-smoking hippie, but it’s also an gross oversimplification. Williams battled social anxiety disorder for years, which led to the interview-in-helmet phase. But he also battled societal norms, which expected him to care about football as much as the players, coaches and fans around him did.
And he didn’t.
Williams said he didn’t retire, so much as he “graduated” from football, and he told Hyde: “My first thought each day is, ‘What’ll be fun for me to do today?”
Would that we all could be so lucky.