Feb. 7, 2012
After 11 NFL seasons, 147 NFL games and nearly 25 years of football, Ricky Williams has decided to retire, the NFL All-Pro and 1998 Heisman Trophy winner said on Tuesday. A 1999 NFL first-round draft pick, Williams played with the New Orleans Saints (three seasons), Miami Dolphins (seven seasons) and his final year with the Baltimore Ravens. A rare NFL running back that played well into his 30s, the 34-year-old Williams is one of just 26 players in NFL history to rush for more than 10,000 yards.
"The NFL has been an amazing page in this chapter of my life," Williams said. "I pray that all successive adventures offer me the same potential for growth, success and most importantly fun. I want to thank all my fans, teammates, coaches and supporters for the strength they've given me to overcome so much. I want to especially thank my family, Coach Mack Brown, Coach [Mike] Ditka, Coach [Bill] Parcells, Ronnie Brown, Wilbert Montgomery and the Jamail family for believing me. As for what's next, I am excited about all the opportunities ahead. Continuing my education, running The Ricky Williams Foundation and whatever other opportunities present themselves."
Williams finished his career with 10,009 rushing yards (26th/NFL history), passing Earl Campbell (9,407 yards) to become the Longhorns' most productive NFL rusher. His 2,431 rushing attempts (23rd), 66 rushing TDs (32nd) and 12,615 yards from scrimmage (42nd) also rank among the top 50 in NFL history. He also had eight TD receptions to tally 74 career TDs (66th) and produced a 1,000-yard season as recently as 2009, becoming only the seventh running back in NFL history to do so in a season in which he was 32 years or older at its start.
"My football career has been filled with many great memories going back to pee wee football with Coach Tom Miller, Patrick Henry High School and Coach Jerry Varner and on to The University of Texas," Williams added. "It has been a big part of my life and blessed me with so many wonderful opportunities and the chance to connect with many people who have helped me grow and mature. I will miss the game, the camaraderie, my teammates and especially the emotions of a big victory. I love the game and leave it feeling fulfilled, proud, in great health and excited about the future."
After being selected fifth overall by the New Orleans Saints in the 1999 NFL Draft, Williams established himself as one of the NFL's premier running backs. He rushed for 3,129 yards and 16 TDs and caught 132 passes for 1,092 yards and a pair of TDs in 38 games (all starts) for the Saints. In 2000, Williams became the first Saints 1,000-yard rusher in more than a decade. He followed that with 1,245 rushing yards in 2001, making him the first New Orleans player ever to rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons.
A 2002 trade sent Williams to the Miami Dolphins where he led the NFL in rushing in his first season there and set Dolphins single-season records with 1,853 yards (13th-best season rushing total in NFL history) and 2,216 total yards from scrimmage. He earned a trip to the Pro Bowl and was named MVP at that game. The Dolphins co-MVP rushed for a team-record 16 TDs and ranked second on the team with 47 catches for 363 yards. During his seven-year Dolphins career, which ran until 2010, he logged the top two single-season rushing years in team history (1,853 in 2002 and 1,372 in 2003). His 392 rushing attempts in 2003, and 383 in 2002 were tops in franchise history and amongst the highest in consecutive seasons on NFL record. In 2009, Williams rushed for 1,121 yards, which ranks fifth on the Dolphins single-season list. He owns the most 100-yard rushing games in team history (24) and the most in a single season in team history (10 in 2002). He ranks a very close second on the Dolphins career lists in both rushing yards with 6,436 yards (Larry Csonka - 6,737) and rushing TDs with 48 (Csonka - 53).
In his final NFL season, Williams rushed for 444 yards and two TDs and tallied 527 yards from scrimmage in helping the Ravens advance to the AFC Championship game. Baltimore came up just shy of reaching the Super Bowl, suffering a 23-20 defeat at the hands of the New England Patriots.
"I have to thank Coach [John] Harbaugh and the Ravens organization for the opportunity they gave me this year," Williams said. "I had so much fun and really appreciated the chance to finish on such a great note."
At Texas, Williams became one of the most exceptional players in the history of college football. He claimed the 1998 Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Foundation Player of the Year Award, Associated Press Player of the Year Award and The Sporting News Player of the Year Award among others, while also becoming the first-ever two-time Doak Walker Award winner. A two-time unanimous first-team All-American, he finished his career with 21 NCAA records and 46 University of Texas all-time marks.
Among Williams' NCAA records were career rushing yards (6,279), all-purpose yards (7,206), rushing TDs (72), total TDs (75), scoring (452 points), games with a TD (33), games with two or more TDs (21), yards per rush (6.2/min. 780 carries) and 200-yard games (11). He also won back-to-back NCAA rushing and scoring titles in 1997-98. One of only two members of the NCAA all-time top 12 all-purpose yardage performers who never returned a kick, he also tied an NCAA mark by posting back-to-back 2,000-yard all-purpose seasons. For UT records, Williams broke Earl Campbell's UT all-time rushing record in 1998 and set records for 300-yard games (two), 200-yard games (11) and 100-yard games (28), while also setting the single-game mark with 350 yards against Iowa State in 1998.
"We're so proud of Ricky and everything he accomplished," said Longhorns Head Coach Mack Brown. "He's always been a great player but in recent years I watched every week with amazement at how much speed, power and quickness he still had despite his age. He looked like the same guy who broke every record possible at Texas and helped us re-energize our program. But that's Ricky. He is a special football player and will always be remembered as one of the best to ever play the game.
"Ricky had a tremendous football career, and we're looking forward to seeing a lot more of him now that he's retired. One thing I know for sure, Ricky accomplished a lot on the football field, but he aspires for even more in his career after football."
Texas officially retired Williams' No. 34 jersey in a pregame ceremony prior to the Oklahoma State game on Sept. 30, 2000 and he earned a spot in the Longhorn Hall of Honor in 2010.