Ricky Williams has never been one of the more predictable players in the National Football League. Drafted by the New Orleans Saints out of the University of Texas, Williams wore a wedding dress to his introductory press conference, presumably to show the world he felt like a bride. He was legendary for referring to himself in the third person. While playing for the Saints, Ricky Williams developed a personality disorder so severe that he would wear his helmet during postgame interviews, shielding his face from the media and the audience watching at home. As quirky as these actions may have been, they pale in comparison to the bomb Williams just dropped on his current team, the Miami Dolphins: He's retiring from football at the age of 27, after playing only five seasons.
You can just feel the deflation in the air, all the way up here in Central Florida. We sure could feel the earth-trembling celebration going on just this past week when the Miami Heat stole Shaquille O'Neal from the Lakers, trading him for three players, some magic beans and the Colonel's secret chicken recipe. Miami's elation turned to seismic despondence on the evening of July 24 as ESPN broke the news of the early retirement.
The reason for running away? "I just don't want to be in this business anymore. I was never strong enough to not play football, but I'm strong enough now." According to The Miami Herald, Williams finalized his decision to walk away from a promising pro football career while hanging out with Lenny Kravitz and Snoop Dogg as the two artists toured Europe. No, really. To be a fly on that backstage wall!
"Yo, Lenny ... how do you deal with all this fame, man? All those people cheering you, buying your CDs, making you a millionaire? That must just bug you out!"
"Oh yeah, it's a real bitch, Rick." (Puff, puff, pass.) "I can't even go to Target anymore without some sucka asking me about Lisa Bonet."
"See, that's what I'm talking about. (Puff, puff, no pass.) "I just want to be able to spend time with my kids, climb mountains in Australia, go back to school, whatever. I can't see myself letting 350-pound men hit me and fall on me for one more season." (Puff, puff, puff.) "And those 8 a.m. team meetings? Screw that noise. Why should I go in and look at game film when I can do the wake & bake?"
"I don't know, Rick. It's like I told my last girlfriend, Nicole Kidman ... shit is fucked up sometimes. Where are we running?"
"I feel you, Lenny. I don't want to be controlled anymore. I don't want some punk-ass coach telling me what to do." (Puff, puff, wheeze, puff.) "Not to disrespect you or anything, but on this tour you hardly have any time for yourself! That is not the life for me. You've got to let love rule!"
"Well, Ricky ... it seems the decision is clear."
"I should walk away from football after only five seasons?"
"No, bitch ... you should quit flapping your lips and pass me that motherfuckin' joint."
"Dude, my bad. Snoop, whatchoo got to say about this?"
"Rizzle, my nizzle ... shizzle gizzle fizzle izzle. Ya gots ta chizzle whizzle stizzle mizzle belizzle."
If you think I'm taking liberties by assuming that Williams was consuming the sticky-icky-icky, think again. According to ESPN's Dan LeBatard (also a Miami Herald columnist; he's the writer who broke the story of Williams' retirement), he hasn't abided by the NFL's antidrug policy for quite some time and reportedly has consumed some sort of mystery liquid to avoid detection of his pot habit. Now that he won't be playing in the NFL, there's nothing holding Williams back from smoking weed by the bale. As he says: "Human beings aren't meant to be controlled. They're supposed to be given direction and a path. Don't tell me what I can and can't do. Please."
Williams is far from the first football player (or even running back) to leave the pro game prematurely. Legendary black activist Jim Brown hauled ass to explore a film career. Former Minnesota Viking Robert Smith (no, not the pale fat guy from The Cure) departed in his prime because he figured he could do more valuable things with his time. Barry Sanders was on track to break Walter Payton's record for all-time rushing yards when he simply quit. He never really gave a reason for his early exit, but by all accounts he had several productive years left in his legs, if not his heart. Williams is, however, the first to pull the ripcord so early in such a stellar career. Undoubtedly, many an NFL secondary and defensive line is collectively breathing a sigh of relief that they will not have to endure Ricky Williams slamming into them this upcoming football season.
Admittedly, Williams' untimely decision leaves the Miami Dolphins in shambles. They have no running game, no quarterback and no hope of even making the playoffs this year. But this decision wasn't about the Dolphins. This choice stemmed solely from a player's disdain for fame and celebrity, his unwillingness to abide by rules and regulations and that inner voice that told him he could be more than just a pro football player. Before you start hating on Ricky Williams for his various life choices, ask yourself if you're strong enough to walk away from fame and fortune and simply buy a one-way airplane ticket to Asia. That inner voice has apparently been trying to reach Williams for quite some time, and it finally got through. As he put it, "The only people I'm accountable to are my three young children, and they love me anyway. Whenever you are afraid to do something, you should do it. I've been afraid of this too long. I'm not anymore."
Dolphins fans, however, are totally pissing their pants.