Ricky Williams Does More Than Smell “Green”

By Michael Tillery
Updated: August 9, 2005

Ricky Williams

DELAWARE,—Let me start with offering my sincere condolences to the late John Johnson’s family. John Johnson died on August 8th from heart failure at the age of 87.

It should be assumed that this website, or any mass medium associated with African-American culture, wouldn’t have been possible without the creator of Ebony and Jet magazines. Mr. Johnson, you most definitely will be missed.

We all know Ricky William’s story. We all know about the marijuana, the dreadlocks, wedding dress and the contract squabbles. Has anyone seen Earl Campbell lately? The man can barely walk! It’s a damn shame that an athlete of his stature is reduced to what he has become. He played eight and a half seasons in the NFL, seven with the Houston Oilers, and one and a half with the New Orleans Saints.

In those eight seasons he rushed 2,187 times amassing 9,407 yards and 74 touchdowns. He was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991. The “Tyler Rose”, as he is known, played college foootball at what school? The University of Texas, winning the Heisman Trophy in 1977. Campbell has become a prominent businessman in Texas, selling memorabilia and meat products, among others, and is still visible today mentoring incoming Longhorn athletes. This is where he made a serious impression on a young Williams.

It should be obvious how this relates to Ricky Williams unfolding and dramatically continuous saga. Ricky idolized Campbell, Barry Sanders, Marcus Allen and SMU’s Doak Walker, to name a few. After running for 95 yards and two touchdowns against Hawaii in his initial game at Texas, he became known as “Little Earl”. Ricky went on to become college football’s all time leading rusher, culminating with 1998′s Heisman Trophy winning campaign.

In that season he rushed 391 times for an amazing 2,327 yards and a 6.0 average. He went on to set 15 NCAA and 44 University of Texas records. Early in his Texas career, Ricky was very fortunate to have played behind two very game capable running backs, Shon Mitchell and the Kansas City Chief’s Priest Holmes–who recovered from a serious knee injury while playing for the Longhorns. Injuries are obviously a huge part of the game and will continue to be for the rest of football’s existence.

I beg of you another question. Why do you think Barry Sanders retired? With the exception of Herman Moore, did Detroit seriously attempt to compliment him on offense? Sanders, through no fault of his own, lost an unbelievable amount of yards behind the line of scrimmage that would have put him way over what was once Walter Payton’s rushing standard.

Simply put, being in such a radical offense put him in jeopardy and had to have had an effect on his leaving the game with us wanting more and shaking our collective heads. Maybe this had to do with Jim Brown leaving also, but I won’t speculate, because Hollywood beckoned.

This leads up to Ricky. Do you know he led the league in rushing attempts both of his years with the Dolphins? Besides the quarterback of course, can you name one other player on Miami’s offense? Have you ever heard him complain of the talent that Miami put around him or lack thereof? We have to understand as fans that these athletes aren’t slaves primarily for our fantasy teams.

The fanatical passion in which we follow them doesn’t mean a damn thing regarding the constant beating their gifted bodies take for what we think is for the almighty dollar. In my opinion, Miami’s personnel decisions had something to do with Ricky leaving–marijuana aside of course–and he probably would have stayed on if the organization wasn’t in utter chaos at the time.

When are we going to fault pro organizations? Do they ever deserve being judged for their misgivings? While I agree that Daunte deserved getting his contract restructured, why isn’t that judged negatively in the court of public opinion? Why isn’t the money the owners make ever called into question–or the pro leagues for that matter?

Jealousy and envy are a part of life. Don’t you think some athletes are envious of their superstar teammates? This envy sometimes plays out in the press or some of Ricky’s teammates would have come to bat for him and what he did for the entire organization. Hypothetically, imagine the son of a running back asking his daddy why he is always grunting and grimacing while trying to maneuver the stairs at night.

This has to have an effect on an aging overused runner’s thought process for the upcoming season. I think it’s utterly disgusting that anytime an athlete mentions his well being he is foolishly and publicly ostracized.

What part of the game is that?