Ricky Williams Retires: A Open Letter to the NFL's Enigma from Who Dat Nation

Eric Freeman, Jr.@realericfreemanContributor IIIFebruary 7, 2012

7 Oct 2001: Ricky Williams #34 of the New Orleans Saints points to the scoreboard during the game against the Minnesota Vikings at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Saints won 28-15. DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Ronald Martinez/ALLSPORT
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Dear Ricky,

Ricky, Ricky, Ricky.

We've been here before with you, but now it's different. Now it looks like you're done for good.

What is there to say? Yes, you're finishing your career with 10,009 yards and 74 total touchdowns. Only 25 people have ever rushed for more yards than you, so way to go.

That's where the kudos end.

I don't blame you for destroying two years worth of draft picks for the New Orleans Saints. I wasn't upset about our giving up the entire 1999 NFL Draft just for you.

You were the prize of the draft. You won the Heisman at Texas, sitting exactly where Stanford QB Andrew Luck sits now: universally hailed as a "once-in-a-generation" type player.

Which is why you fell to 5th in that draft, after Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb, Akili Smith and Edgerrin James. That's right. You weren't even the first running back drafted, and we gave up our entire draft for you.

(There's actually a special note on Wikipedia on the main page of "the 1999 NFL Draft" just for you: "The New Orleans Saints traded all of their draft picks to the Washington Redskins for running back Ricky Williams, the first time ever that an NFL team has had only one pick in a draft." Lord knows we didn't need a QB, what with the team of Billy Joe Tolliver, Billy Joe Hobert, Jake Delhomme and even Lamar Smith, or as we all know him, who?


But no matter. You started for the Saints, carrying the ball over 250 times. You gained just under 900 yards, good for a 3.5 yards per rush average. Not to mention your two TDs that season.

Not before embarrassing yourself, and your whole city at that point.

Yes, we remember the dress.

As ESPN The Magazine photographer Greg Heisler put it, "Ricky was into it, and Ditka was happy with it as long as he wasn't wearing the dress."

We were all wearing the dress.

Your next two seasons were actually fairly decent, except we began to worry about whether you could take the beating required to be a starting running back. You played well in 2000 and 2001, but you were also hurt at the end of 2000, so you can't claim that "you were there" when Hakim dropped the ball.

2001 was a breakout year for you. 1,245 rushing yards is never something to laugh at, especially when you finished 8th in the NFL in rushing. But our time with you had to end.

As soon as we had a chance to trade you, we did just that, receiving four draft picks (including two first rounders) for you. The next season, you halfway made us pay, leading the NFL in rushing with 1,853 yards (just over a mile) with the Miami Dolphins.

Then came the problems.

NEW ORLEANS - SEPTEMBER 03:  Ricky Williams #34 of the Miami Dolphins avoids a tackle by Danny Gorrer #38 of the New Orleans Saints at the Louisiana Superdome on September 3, 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images


First, the marijuana. Then the clinical depression (unless that was first). Then the early retirement in 2004.

We were honestly proud to see you again after your stint in the CFL, recovering from your depression and anxiety, and paying your dues (which included two long IR stints and a year-long suspension for the weed), but you were never the same running back.

Hell, you weren't the same guy.

We had no idea what to think of you after we gave our whole draft to the Redskins. We knew even less when you ran into problem after problem.

But considering everything you've been through, there's only one thing to say.

We're proud of you, Ricky.

All is forgiven. (Even that damn dress).


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