By Michael Barzee
I am sure we all know someone who has wasted or taken for granted God-given talent. Growing up, a best friend of mine had the ability to draw with great detail and picture objects in his head. After dropping out of engineering school, he now works as a bartender.
My friend is not the only person out there that wasted such talent. Former Nebraska running back Lawrence Phillips was one of the greatest rushers in Cornhusker history. However, Phillips appeared on more police blotters than in NFL games and more times in a prison cell than locker rooms. The most recent example of wasted talent is suspended Dolphins running back Ricky Williams.
In 1998, Ricky Williams became the 64th winner of the Heisman trophy, capping off one of the greatest college football careers ever. Williams broke or shared 20 NCAA records, becoming the NCAA career-rushing leader with 6,279 yards (later broken by Wisconsin running back Ron Dayne). The “Texas Tornado” also broke the NCAA 1A career rushing touchdowns and career scoring records with 73 and 452 respectively (broken one year later my Miami running back Travis Prentice).
There is no question Williams had a spectacular college career. The beginning of his NFL career got cheers and jeers when former Saints head coach Mike Ditka traded all of the team”s draft picks to get Williams. Williams and Ditka would later pose in a mock wedding ceremony, with Williams dressed in a wedding dress and Ditka in a tuxedo, for the cover of ESPN Magazine. This unprecedented move would mark a short roller coaster NFL career for Williams.
Williams started off his career in the right direction. In only his second season, Williams rushed for 1,000 yards and scored eight touchdowns. After a mere three seasons with the Saints, Williams was traded to the Dolphins where he would taste the bitter with the sweet. In his first season with the Dolphins, Williams rushed for a league leading 1,853 yards along with 16 touchdowns.
After tasting the sweetness of success, Williams was about to taste the bitterness. On May 14, 2004, it was announced that Williams had tested positive for marijuana in December 2003. His drug addiction would only get worse until on August 2, 2004 he formally retired from professional football. Williams retired from the NFL to study Ayurveda, an ancient Indian system of holistic medicine, at the California College of Ayurveda. (I think Dwight Gooden and Daryl Strawberry are the leading donors at that college.)
You might have a drug addiction when you give up millions of dollars to go study holistic medicine. I am no doctor that is just a hunch.
After one year of attending holistic college, Williams decided that he wanted to play football again for the Dolphins. He probably realized that he would need money to pay for his addiction. But Williams” return to the Dolphins was short lived. After sitting out his first four games from a drug suspension, Williams played the rest of the season before testing positive for drugs again.
However, the NFL has quite a generous drug policy. Williams broke the leagues substance abuse policy for the fourth time but only received a one-year suspension. Williams decided, with approval from the Dolphins, he would play for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League. Yes, you heard it right; Canada does have a professional football league.
The Argonauts signed Williams to a one-year contract worth $214,000. On top of that chunk of money, the CFL has no drug policy meaning that Williams can smoke it up anytime he wants. Or can he? Actually, Williams is still under contract with the Dolphins. As a result, the NFL drug policy applies to him. The NFL can test Williams up to 10 times a month. Sorry Ricky, if you thought that the CFL would be the answer to your conflict between drug addiction and a football career, you were wrong.
Ricky, don”t turn into Gooden or Strawberry, whose whole life and career were tainted and ripped apart because of drugs. You have already made several big mistakes but you are still young enough to turn your life around. Ricky, you will have to choose between drugs or football. Make it a football career or drug career the choice is yours.