Ricky Williams Runs “Full Circle”

April 21, 2010 – 7:30 am by Paul Bessire

Ricky Williams seemed to have everything as a Heisman Trophy winning running back whose NFL coach traded the future of the franchise to get him (which landed him on the cover of Sports Illustrated and ESPN The Magazine), whose agent was a platinum-recording hip hop star, and who won the MVP of the Pro Bowl in his fourth season in the league.

Then, of course, he retired from football, traveled the world, studied holistic medicine, tried to return but was suspended, showed up on “60 Minutes” to talk about his drug habits, and went to the CFL.

And then, obviously, Williams came back to the NFL after the age of 30, practiced yoga to stay off drugs, ran for 1,000 yards, and enrolled in school to take pre-med classes.

Sound like a movie? Well it is now. Williams actually began a documentary about his life in 2004 and had yet to finish the movie until ESPN approached him (and his producer) about joining its 30 for 30 series. The result, “Run Ricky Run”, will air first on Monday, April 27 at 10 PM ET on ESPN.

Ricky Williams joined Joe Rose on WQAM in Miami to talk about “Run Ricky Run,” medical school, his future in football, his favorite coach, the pressure of the first round, and maturity.

On doing his documentary “Run Ricky Run” for ESPN’s 30 for 30:

“The producer is one of my good friends… I wanted it to be his project. I didn’t want people to think that I was trying to doctor it or fix it up to make myself look better. I just took a step back and let him run with it. I think that I have enough maturity and enough distance from the material that I can sit and face it and let people make an honest judgment on what they think. I have seen the first quarter and a half of it. I haven’t seen the whole thing yet. It’s a beautiful story. My whole thing is trying to explain to people that in life, there are cycles. If you really want to grow and be all you can be, you have to have the courage to go and find who you are. People are going to have ideas and judge you for it. My story it shows that my personal life was a wreck. I was having success on the football field, but there was no balance and I couldn’t even appreciate it. By me going away and doing me and  finding out who I am, I come back, I’m married. I have an incredible marriage, some wonderful, beautiful children and I have a great football career and a medical career ahead of me. That shows the benefits that you can get by being you and having the courage to go find yourself… It’s funny. It’s interesting. It’s a little difficult to watch sometimes. It’s a story that comes full circle. To me, that’s a beautiful thing.”

On deciding to take pre-med classes:

“It’s tough. I have a lot of appreciation for student athletes who are trying to be football players and take their education seriously. It’s no joke. It’s difficult. On the football field, we have 22 coaches yelling at us all the time. Off the field, you got to motivate yourself. It’s a little bit tougher. My whole thing in life, since I was a kid, is that I always wanted to live life to the fullest. And I am just lucky that I finally got to a place where I have the courage and money and free time to pursue my dreams. The way I look at things is probably different than most people do. One of the things that I want to teach my kids is not to be afraid to make mistakes.”

On how he feels about his future in football:

“After the season, I was a little sore, but I have had some time to recover. Starting workouts and being back in there, I feel pretty good. Watching the playoffs this off-season made me kind of hungry to go far. And then, during this off-season and seeing us make this move for Brandon Marshall and seeing Bill (Parcells) and Tony (Sparano) building a very strong team, it’s tempting. But of course, I got to see how my body feels and if it can hold up for a couple years.”

On his favorite coach:

“I would have to say Tony (Sparano). I like Coach Ditka a lot. I’ve liked all of my coaches a good majority of the time. But I think Tony is probably my favorite. I’m no just saying that because he is my current coach. Tony is a lot like Coach Ditka in that he doesn’t put up with any BS. He knows exactly what he wants. He lays that on the table and it’s our job to step up his demands and he’s not going to accept anything less. The reason I like that is because it holds everyone accountable. I think in the past, it wasn’t like that. Sometimes I would feel like I was the only one on offense and I didn’t feel I had a lot of help. I didn’t feel like other guys on offense were working as hard or were not as motivated as I was. It was like going to battle and you don’t have your dogs with you. Now, the way the team is, I feel like every Sunday, it’s not just me. It’s a lot more enjoyable like that. “

And on the pressure of being a first round pick:

“I think it all depends on the person. The pressure is there because there is so much hype and so much value for the first round pick. The team and the fans and also your teammates want to see you produce fast. Different people mature at different levels. Sometimes it takes some time before you can perform how you want to.”

Listen to Ricky Williams on WQAM in Miami with Joe Rose.

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