Sunday, July 25, 2004

Ricky Williams, athlete?

Ricky Williams retired from the Miami Dolphins. Williams was the sole highlight on an awful U Texas team as a junior; as a senior he won the Heisman Trophy (in a solid team season) and became the NCAA's all-time leading rusher. He then signed a ridiculous incentive-laden contract that completely worked against his interests, had a falling out with his New Orleans coach Jim Haslett and ultimately was traded to Miami where he ran for more than 3200 yards in two seasons, but the Dolphins still couldn't find a way to make the playoffs.

Williams has always been a bit odd. He's very soft-spoken and shy. His persona does not complement his enormous strength and running ability. He has often strained against the expectations that accompany tremendous athletic ability -- thus, his lengthy travels in offseasons, varying interests, etc. He is also much smarter than the usual "athlete" but that intelligence is totally unfocussed. Williams is also influenced by his Texas days in the lax and post-hippie culture of Austin, Texas. Williams previously failed a drug test and allegedly honked another one recently (which would result in a multi-game suspension, fine and more recriminations); rumors that he is a pot-head have been rampant throughout his NFL career.

Ultimately, Williams' NFL legacy will be one of unfulfilled expectations and missed opportunity. And given how he left the Dolphins in the lurch this offseason, he will not be remembered fondly by his teammates or coaches. But hopefully, he will be able to figure out who he is with the benefits of the money he made and the time he now has, instead of perpetually fighting the concept of what he was supposed to be.

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