Ex-Dolphin Ricky Williams not running away from latest venture

March 27, 2018

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Ricky Williams has got a brand new bag, and he’s no longer shy about everybody knowing what’s in it.

The same burly running back who once abandoned the Miami Dolphins at the start of training camp because he didn’t want his positive test for marijuana use to be made public is now marketing his own line of cannabis-based products under the brand name of Real Wellness by Ricky Williams.

This is all happening in California, where marijuana use is legal for both medical reasons and recreational use, and California is the place where Ricky’s rules on life and personal freedom have always made the most sense.

Sure, the Heisman Trophy winner first gained national fame setting NCAA rushing records with the Texas Longhorns, but Ricky was born in San Diego and lives now in Venice Beach, the famous L.A. destination where street performers juggle chainsaws and on some afternoons are the least eccentric personalities on the boardwalk.

Ricky’s time with the Dolphins was interesting, too.

It took a couple of first-round draft picks to get him from the Saints in 2002 and that looked pretty good when he led the league in rushing that season with a franchise-record 1,853 yards. Later came the drug suspensions, when he could have been playing for the Dolphins, and the escape to a tent city in Australia, when he chose a journey of self-discovery over playing for the Dolphins, and finally a return to the team after a year of purgatory in the CFL.

Add it all up, including those major subtractions, and Ricky remains Miami’s No. 2 career rushing leader, just 301 yards behind Larry Csonka.

That’s why people put up with his comings and goings, and the social anxiety disorder that for a brief time led to Ricky doing interviews with his football helmet on, face hidden by a dark visor. He’s always been a man living in two or three worlds at once.

Hearing of his latest incarnation as a holistic healer, with the white coat to prove it in publicity shots, harkens back to a column I wrote in 2005, when Ricky was on a business trip to California and striving, as always, to cram in as much enlightenment as possible.

It was Dolphins’ game day in November, and a good one at that, with Miami winning 33-21 at Oakland. Ricky ran 34 yards for a touchdown to wrap it up in the final minutes. Sitting at his post-game locker, he revealed just above a whisper that there were some special friends of his at the stadium, surrounded by rowdy Raiders fans, surrounded and confused.

He was talking about a group of former classmates for whom he had left tickets at will call. Ricky studied with them previously at California College of Ayurveda, a school where the comprehensive cleansing provided by herbs and diet and colors and aromas and yoga was taught, a school located in a sparsely populated town called, get this, Grass Valley.

“Lots of them have never been to a football game in their lives,” Ricky said, speaking barely above a whisper and politely declining this reporter’s request for phone numbers to contact his friends directly.

“It will be interesting to hear what they thought about it. They have no idea of my personality, of my persona as a football player. To them, I’m just a student. They see me in my humility.”

It’s hard to be humble when you’re being paid millions of dollars to do something that few others can do, but somehow Ricky always managed to pull it off.

Whether he is entirely sincere or entirely consistent in his various commitments doesn’t bother me as much as it once did. Ricky says he is in the process of earning a Ph.D. in Chinese medicine, another departure from the ordinary, and if anyone told him that his approach to treating pain and anxiety through herbs and acupuncture and massage was within 100 miles of ordinary, he would go another way.

So what can Ricky interest you in as a potential customer for his new company? A cannabis-based salve or tonic or vape cartridge?

Strange to put all these curious concepts together, and stranger still to imagine that one day an extended NFL family troubled by CTE and other chronic health issues might be trying to get on Ricky’s wavelength, instead of the other way around. — (Cox Newspapers)