On Tuesday, Ricky Williams confirmed his retirement from football. The news was not surprising as he found himself on a winning team, but yet in a very limited role with the Baltimore Ravens spelling pro bowler Ray Rice.
He issued a statement to the media:
“The NFL has been an amazing page in this chapter of my life,” … “I pray that all successive adventures offer me the same potential for growth, success and most importantly fun.”
While Ricky had a 12 year career in football, 7 years were spent with the Miami Dolphins. (One must include his 1 year with the Toronto Argonauts.)
Ricky had many highlights as a Dolphin Running Back including his first big game running-over the New York Jets who at the time owned South Florida and beat the Dolphins continually at Pro Player/Dolphin Stadium. The game featured the beginnings of his 2002 campaign where he rushed for 1,853 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns.
As the season approached to a close and the Dolphins lost a critical final game to the New England Patriots in the closing seconds optimism reigned in South Florida.
In the 2003 season this optimism was overshadowed with the emergence of Chris Chambers, but Ricky still rushed for 9 touchdowns and 1,372 yards on a whopping 392 carries. He played a full 16 games.
The 2003 season was a waste since the Dolphins failed to make the playoffs again and instead had to deal with the unexplainable failed Drug test of Ricky Williams in the off-season that would cost him 5 games of the 2004 season. It was Ricky’s second offense in a tightly-held under wraps substance abuse policy by the NFL.
To the dismay of many fans, Ricky spent much of the off season away from South Florida and consequently taking in more quiet time with his friend and rock star Lenny Kravitz. (We all know that Ricky was busy enjoying the rock star life with certain things that come with it.)
On the eve of training camp something was amiss. Reports of an abrupt Ricky Williams retirement began to surface on ESPN and NFL Network and Ricky was nowhere to be found. A couple of days later, Ricky communicated with his only trusted reporter Dan LeBatard to get the word out that he was done with football and wanted to find and explore other things in life. His website that was created for the Run Ricky Run foundation had the message that Ricky had retired at the young age of 29.
As Dolfans were greeted with the media’s take of Ricky as uncaring, selfish, and letting his teammates down; fans we left watching Dave Wannstedt go into a tailspin as the unfamiliar feelings of going 1-5 settled in our collective stomachs. We learned that Travis Minor was not the great and powerful back that could carry the team and neither was waiver wire pickup Lamar Gordon. Which led to offensive breakdowns with new QB in Jay Feely that were difficult to watch.
However, after a firing of Wannstedt and new life with a new coach in Nick Saban Ricky was asked back to continue his Dolphins career. I remember the footage of him driving up to Dolphins head quarters in Davie on NFL Network heavily bearded and with longer hair lighter and thinner after losing a lot of muscle mass. Ricky checked in at 220 some would say, but was far from football shape.
Together with Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams was revitalized and got into better game shape to contribute to the offense only to fail another drug test in March and be suspended from the NFL for one season. It put a damper on Ricky’s comeback year of 743 yards rushing and 6 TDs.
Still hungry to get his game back on track, Ricky took his exploits to Toronto where he dominated sub par defenses in the CFL for the Toronto Argonauts. At the end Ricky was given another opportunity as Cam Cameron, who had no more healthy backs after Ronnie Browns ACL tear against the Titans, needed a body to run against Pittsburgh. Unfortunately Ricky’s third carry led to a broken chest and rib area after Rookie Lawrence Timmons “accidentally” stepped on his chest.
Then came the Parcells era and three up and down years of the Dolphins. Ricky played a significant role in the jet sweep of the Wild Cat formation giving way to Ronnie Brown going up the middle for a career high 5 touchdowns vs. New England in 2008.
Ricky also had key games in 2009 against the Panthers rushing for over 100 yards and keeping the Dolphins in the playoff hunt. Ricky was carrying the load for Ronnie Brown who was placed on IR for a Lisafranc fracture.
Just last year, Ricky compiled a herculean effort for his age running over the Oakland Raiders and finishing them off with an HB Blast right for a 68 yd. TD run leaving Oakland defenders hobbling in his wake.
For everything that Ricky went through off the field and everything he put his team through, his numbers don’t lie.
Ricky ran for over 4.0 yards per carry in 8 of his 11 seasons.
Ricky rushed for 1,000 yards 5 times.
Ricky finished his NFL career with 10,009 yards putting him in the company and coversation of the top 10 backs of all time.
Ricky, however, only scored 66 Rushing TDs which will definitely put a damper on his campaign for the Hall of Fame.
I am proud to say that as a Dolfan and huge fan of Ricky Williams, I would not wish that Ricky could change the things he did good or bad.
Ricky is one of the few guys that you never knew what he was thinking, but he gave it his all and left it all on that football field just as he quietly walked off it.
For one last time: “Run Ricky Run!”