I think the crown jewel of UT outside of Earl Campbell is definitely Ricky Williams. I had been torturing myself all week about this one, debating on whether or not I should go after hearing on the radio he was going to appear on the radio at Shady Grove Burgers. About 1 in the morning I woke up and decided that I’d finagle my way into showing up, rearranging work and also borrowing my girlfriend’s car, it would be a stretch, but I somehow in the end I pulled it off after all. The usual 1300 The Zone suspects were there, and Rod and I had a few chuckles before he went on the air. This time I scared Craig Way (the voice of the Longhorns) with my howling and cheering which they initially said sounded like a pretty woman and then backed off of. Ricky showed up clad in black. He did some interviews and then I probably had one of the weirdest, most existential conversations that I ever had with a player.
I said hello and started talking to him. He immediately asked who I was and then started asking me questions. I told him about how he was an inspiration to me conquering his social anxiety issues, to which he told me, “He didn’t believe in that anymore.” We talked briefly about who he’d retire officially as a member of, but he hadn’t even though of that. He was quite engaging, and asked me if I was attending his event on Sunday, to which I told him I couldn’t afford the 200.00 price tag. I didn’t have 200.00 to be tossing around like that. I can’t afford it on my hourly wage. He was a bit shocked, but then asked me what I would do if 200.00 dropped out of the sky? I told him I’d want to give it back because I didn’t know who’s money it was. This existential wrangling lasted about another minute before he segued on to talking about his playing career and how he had separated his pectorial muscle and missed a whole season. He rededicated himself to being in the best shape he could and one day Bill Parcells called him into his office and told him that they were tripling his salary for the next season- even though he hadn’t even played a down. He told me that someday 200.00 may just drop out of the sky like that for me, and to think about it. It was an interesting conversation to say the least, but I can see how people get the wrong impression from the enigmatic runningback. Later after the radio show, I plunked down $20.00 to get his autograph for a donation. I was the first in line and he had a big beaming smile and came over and signed the card and took a photo. The flood gates opened really after that. It was a nice event in the end, and I was happy to have met “Little Earl”.
Ricky Williams played for the Texas Longhorns from 1995-1998. The 1998 Heisman Trophy Winner, Ricky holds Texas records for rushing yards in a game (350 yards against Iowa State). He hold the school record for most rushing yards and touchdowns in a season (2,124 yards, 27TD), and in his career as well (6,279yards, 72Tds). His 6,279 rushing yards were an NCAA record at the time in 1998. Williams earned accolades for the Doak Walker Award (97,98), Jim Brown Trophy (97,98), Consensus All-American (97,98), Collegiate Player of the year 1998, the Maxwell Award 1998, the Walter Camp Award 1998, and at the time of his graduation he held or shared 20 NCAA Rushing Records.
The Saints, during the 1999 draft thought he was the second coming of Walter Payton. Mike Ditka famously traded away his entire draft to get Ricky Williams with the 5th pick of the draft. Williams despite performing well for New Orleans, couldn’t save the Saints. In 3 seasons with the team he accumulated 3129 yards rushing, 16 touchdowns, and helped them return to the playoffs. His final season in New Orleans, Ricky ran for 1,245 yards and had a career high 60 receptions for 511 yards.
The Saints pulled the trigger after drafting Deuce McAllister, and traded Ricky to the Miami Dolphins for a pair of 1’s in 2002. The Dolphins rode Williams hard in his first season under Dave Wannastedt. He’d lead the league with 383 carries for 1853 yards, finishing with 2216 yards from scrimmage. After another grueling season in 2003 when he led the league with 392 carries and shouldered the load for the offense, Williams out of the blue retired. He also was liberal about his drug usage, and was suspended from the league for marijuana usage. This wrecked the middle part of his career, however left him with fresh legs entering his 30s. In 2009, Williams returned to old form, (splitting time with Ronnie Brown,) Williams still managed to run for 1121 yards, a svelte 4.7 yard average, and 11 touchdowns. He’d have his career long reception and rush that year as well, at the age of 32. Ricky played with the Dolphins through 2010, and one final season in Baltimore.
Ricky retired after the 2011 season, wanting to focus more on his charitable/ philanthropical causes and move into another phase of his life. His 4 season interlude between 1,000 yard seasons, is the longest in the NFL. Williams did manage in 11 seasons, to rush for over 10k yards, a testament to how many yards he had in his career over the first half of it. You can visit his website at: www.rickywilliamsfoundation.com.
I made the right decision to get his autograph at the Shady Hollow event. At the University of Texas Burnt Orange and White Scrimmage he refused to sign any autographs. His statue was unveiled across from Earl Campbell’s just outside the stadium.
G/Gs 147/84 Rush 2431 Yds 10009 Avg 4.1 Td 66 Lg 68 |
Rec 342 Yds 2606 Avg 7.6 Td 8 Lg 59