Ricky Williams Retiring From NFL: Complex Legacy Includes Heisman Trophy At Texas

27 Nov 1998: Running back Ricky Williams #34 of the Texas Longhorns in action during the game against the Texas A&M Aggies at the Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas. The Longhorns defeated the Aggies 26-24.

Lest we forget, Ricky Williams, a one-time NFL All-Pro, was also one of the best running backs in college football history.

Former Texas Longhorns running back Ricky Williams is retiring from his NFL career, NFL.com's Jason La Canfora reported Tuesday. Before he bounced between the Dolphins and Canada and before Saints coach Mike Ditka spent an entire draft on him, Williams made his mark in Austin as one of the greatest college football players ever.

He became the NCAA's I-A all-time rushing yardage leader in 1998, when he virtually swept college football's major awards, including the Heisman Trophy. Though that record's since been broken, he still owns at least a part of 20 NCAA records. He ran for 6,592 yards and scored 90 touchdowns from scrimmage. Texas fans remember him as a legend, but a complicated one:

If Williams is indeed ready to hang up his cleats, he leaves a legacy as complex as his own personality. It's not particularly easy to make sense of it, but as a player in a league that often demands conformity, Williams clearly walked his own path. It seems commendable that he worked so hard to keep his identity from being completely tied to football, something that should serve him well as he transitions to life after the game.

He made the Sports Illustrated cover in '98, with the cover story listing future Jets coach Rex Ryan among the many stunned by Williams' talents. It's also worth pointing out he gave up a year's worth of NFL salary and risked his entire career by returning for his senior year at Texas. From SI:

Williams should already be gone. He would have been a top five pick in the NFL draft last spring, but he chose to return to Texas. He risks losing vast wealth nearly every time the Longhorns snap the ball. Last winter, fired Texas coach John Mackovic told Williams, "A running back can only take so many hits in his career." Williams doesn't disbelieve this, he simply disregards it. "It might be true," he said late last week. "But even if I am costing myself years at the end of my career, I don't care. I'm having too much fun."

Williams never really stopped making choices all his own, something to which NFL fans who've been puzzled by his career over the years can attest.

For more on the Horns, visit Texas blog Burnt Orange Nation.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.