Ricky Williams is a former Heisman Trophy winner and, at one time, was the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher. But when people think about him these days, the most popular memory that’s stirred up in everyone’s mind is his premature retirement from the NFL in 2004 after he chose marijuana over football. Or his year-long suspension in 2006 for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
Talking with Sports Illustrated as part of an in-depth film entitled “Ricky Williams Takes the High Road” on his life after football, Williams talked about what his life’s like now—as he’s a leading voice for marijuana in both social and professional settings, including football—as well some of the feelings he had during his playing career.
According to the SI piece, Williams believes that, under his “own conservative math,” he was tested by the league a whopping 500 times:
By his own conservative math Williams estimates that he was drug-tested more than 500 times—more, he thinks, than anyone in sports history, and so often that he was eventually able to pee on command. That he failed only four of those tests strikes Williams as a “pretty good ratio.” Kristin, meanwhile, still has flashbacks every time she sees a FedEx truck pull into the driveway. One tester liked the cherries she supplied; another helped fix a window frame. “Some of them were like family,” she says.
When talking about the NFL’s drug program, Williams told SI that he was, “treated like a criminal,” believing that the process was “more punitive than rehabilitative, set up to shame marijuana users rather than help them.”
After rushing for over 10,009 career yards in 11 NFL seasons, Williams talked about the pains he experiences, which, he admits, scare him:
The trauma inflicted on his body, the torn right pectoral muscle, the broken left ankle, the dislocated right elbow, the broken ribs, the separated shoulders, the neck pain, all the inevitable results of thousands of collisions. Some days he feels tingling in his left arm, a numbness that dates to 2006. “I get scared sometimes,” he says. “I’m like, This can’t be normal. Is it going to get progressively worse the rest of my life?”
With recent developments in CTE research—which NFL players hope will lead the league to using the drug for concussion treatment—Ricky Williams hopes that the same drug that derailed his football career can be used to help decrease the depression and suicidal thoughts of so many former players as cannabis research continues.
Especially, Williams hopes, for football players. “The NFL empties your tank,” he says. “I look at Junior Seau. I played with Junior. He literally gave everything he had, and when I heard about his suicide, I understood. We have to teach these guys that everything’s connected: the body and the mind, all the trauma. With all the damage we’ve suffered, we’re one group of people with an amazing capacity to heal. We just need the tools.”
You can read the full-length piece on Williams over at SI.com, and should definitely tune into the film “Ricky Williams Takes the High Road” when you have time.
[H/T Sports Illustrated]