Ricky Williams digging life, post-“graduation” from football


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.

17 responses to “Ricky Williams digging life, post-“graduation” from football

  1. Help me out here: It seems like there was a player, I think it was a running back, from the 60’s or 70’s who left the NFL when he had a similar epiphany. I have a hazy memory of seeing him on an old NFL Films episode. Of course, there are other players who have left on their own schedule: Jim Brown, Barry Sanders, Robert Smith. Funny how almost all are running backs.

  2. An interesting man. Certainly never fit the ‘cookie cutter mold’ of the driven football player.

  3. Take that as a lesson to all you out kids out there…

    Go to school, take a job you don’t want, make a lot of money, then quit and travel the globe smoking pot while trying to find yourself.

    Great gig if you can get it.

  4. But he also battled societal norms, which expected him to care about football as much as the players, coaches and fans around him did.
    Well, if you are getting paid tens of millions of dollars to do a job, I don’t think it is that crazy to expect the person to care an awful lot about that job.

    The thing that has always annoyed me about Ricky is that he looks at football and the NFL as some responsibility he can’t get away from that has not allowed him to do the “fun” things he is doing now. The fact is, without the money that football has provided him his trips around the world and the lifestyle he is currently living wouldn’t be possible.

  5. You can be as lucky. It’s not a choice to live a crappy life. Open your mind and expand consciousness. One love Ricky.

  6. The NFL should hire him for post-football counseling to help players cope with the drastic changes in their lives. Maybe not so much for career advice though.

  7. When he quit football … he ended up working in a strip mall. He went back to football … duh!!!

    He’ll be broke broke & jobless like all the other stars … he’s never had a real job.

  8. i really liked his radio Show that he used to do for the ravens media, it was great, Good Luck in the next phase,
    i enjoyed the package you left in AJ’s tahoe, before he went to maryland to play soccer.

  9. One of the most unique athlete personalities out there. I wish him all the best in the future. “Run Ricky Run” was an excellent expose of him as well.

  10. I watched Run Ricky Run as well, and I didn’t get the same idea that he “retired”. Football wasn’t right for Williams and I get that, but he was classless in leaving the game.

    You can’t put him in the same league as James Brown or Robert Smith. These are players that retired.

    Ricky is a quitter no matter how great a guy or extremely talented a player. That’s life.

  11. I love Ricky the football player and Ricky who isn’t defined by being an athlete and posing like it but honestly, all this I disliked my job so much stuff gets old. You chose that life Ricky, and benefited handsomely from it, allowing you to live a life of world travel. It may have sucked for you but it couldn’t have sucked that bad to be able to live the sort of life now that fills you up.

  12. A first ballot member of the All-Flake team, along with Cowboys RB Duane Thomas and Raiders QB – DeMarcus Russell.

  13. queenlivekillers,

    Do you mean former Dallas Cowboys running back, Duane Thomas?

    I’m not sure if he retired and came back, but I do know that he didn’t speak to any teammate or coach for an entire year. And he had the, perhaps ironic, ultimate Super Bowl quote, “If it’s the ultimate game, why do they play it every year?”

  14. Don’t begrudge the man for speaking his mind. Would those who criticize be more satisfied if he were a truck driver or a car salesman and had the same epiphany? His work wasn’t something he enjoyed. Good for him in making that change. What else is possible?

  15. A super nice guy. I still have the baseball hat he lovingly signed for me. I’m going to miss him.

    Run Ricky Run…and I truly hope you get there.

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