Ricky Williams’ Rookie Year From Hell | Untold Stories
– And I remember after the photoshoot, I was in the limo going back to the training facility with Coach Ditka. And he looked at me, and he says, “I don’t know how they got you to put on a wedding dress.” [Laughing] And again, I was like, “You’re supposed to tell me this before the photoshoot.” ♪♪♪ – Ricky. – [Ricky Williams:] What’s up, man? – Ricky Williams. How you doin’, man? – Can’t complain. – When’d you first start playing pool? – Kind of a rite of passage is when you get that big paycheck, you get your own house. You gotta put a pool table in the house! – [Master Tesfatsion:] Exactly. – So when I got to New Orleans, I had a, I had a pool table in the house. – Let’s see what you can do. [Pool balls breaking] That was a solid break. Ricky, there was a lot of controversy your rookie year. – [Sighing] – A lot was going on. I wanna hear from your perspective. I’ve been dying to ask this question. – [Williams:] Yeah. – What was your rookie year like in New Orleans? – Now, there was an article at the end of my rookie year in “ESPN the Magazine,” and it was titled, “The Season From Hell.” And that—that’s—that was my year. It all started with, of all things, my choice of agent. I wanted to find someone that I could connect with. And, umm, at the time, Master P…”Uhh!” – [Master:] Percy Miller, “Make ‘Em Say Uhh!” – [Williams:] Yes, yes, yes. He, uh, started No Limit Sports. – [Master:] Mhm. – [Williams:] And, uh, I became really close with, with one of his runners. I just felt like family, you know? And, and No Limit was at, was on top at that moment, and you know, I just—dreaming about having the chain. – [Laughing] – Being able to put on my tank, you know? – Your No Limit tank. – [Williams:] Exactly. So it started off with that. I got a lot of flak for signing, signing with No Limit Sports. Took them with me to the combine. Ugh. What a nightmare. I just–my, my only half-an-hour doing the combine, and I walk in the room, and there’s a room full of guys, and I’m in my underwear. First they measure my hands, right? And they, they measure the width of your hands. – Like one-eighth, one-fourth, they gotta get it down – Exa— – to the specific inch. – Exactly. And then, you know, after that, they’ve realized that I have the smallest hands in the draft. And then was a doozy, you know? They yell out your weight, OK? And so I was sitting on, standing on the scale. The guy says, “Two! Four! Two! Point! Eight!” And you could hear a gasp, like a collective gasp in the room. – [Laughing] – Ugh. And then, of course, the next day the article was about small hands, overweight, and uh… – [Master:] Size issues, undersized. – [Williams:] Exactly, exactly. The, the journey, it started then. Another funny story. So, you know, before the draft, I went to visit the teams that were, you know, were looking at drafting me. And I went to New Orleans, and we went to, uh, we went to lunch at a, at a famous italian restaurant in New Orleans. And you know how at the end of a meal, they bring out the dessert tray? – Mhm. – And they say, you know, “Pick which you want”? So they brought out the dessert tray, and I like desserts, you know, and, and in my mind I was thinkin’, a lot of these desserts look good, you know? But I just chose one. So I chose one, and they came back around and said, “Do you want another dessert?” And I was thinking, “Well, if they’re asking me, you know, that means I’m supposed to say, ‘Yeah,’ right?” – “Who am I to turn it down?” – [Williams:] Right? And so I said, “Yeah,” OK? And they came back again and said, “Do you want another dessert?” – Three rounds of desserts? – Three rounds of desserts. And I figured, you know, Mike Ditka’s here, the, you know, the vice president’s here, they seem like they’re OK. And so I said, “Sure! I’ll have another, another dessert.” [Laughing] Not realizing that I came into the meeting with a, with a weight problem, and then here, here, right in front of them, in front of—like, no shame, you know? I had three, three desserts. – And they still took you. – And they still, and they still drafted me. But you, you know, the year, the year just kept on goin’, and it didn’t get much better. So, I finally make it into training camp. – Mhm. – And when I got off the plane, there was a bunch of reporters, and they had a magazine in their hands, you know? And earlier, earlier that summer, I had did a photoshoot with Coach Ditka for “ESPN the Magazine.” And at the time, the writer for “ESPN the Magazine,” Dan Le Batard, one of my best friends at the time, we were talkin’ about, you know, “How do we want to do this, this photoshoot to, you know, to co- to commemorate the, uh, the Saints drafting me, uh, trading all the picks?” And so he said, “You know, it’s kinda like a marriage, and so what if we did a picture of you in a wedding dress and Coach Ditka in a, in a tuxedo?” And at the time, I was in the car, and I, and I laughed, and I said, “That, that would be really funny!” And I didn’t really think about it. And so I decided to do, to do the photoshoot. And I remember after the photoshoot, I was in the limo goin’ back to the training facility with Coach Ditka, and he looked at me, and he says, “I don’t know how they got you to put on a wedding dress.” – [Laughing] – And again, I was like, “You’re supposed to tell me this before the photoshoot!” To me, I just thought it was like Halloween, wearing a costume, but it got blown outta proportion, and first day of training camp, I have to deal with this controversy. And it really set up a theme for my whole rookie season, to just all this controversy. Really, my whole time in New Orleans, dealing with off-the-field controversy that detracted me from what I had to do on the field. – [Master:] As you look back on that—the scrutiny, the, the talk— how’d you handle all that? – Another rookie mistake: not very well. You know, I remember one day, training camp, it was raining so I had my helmet on going to a covered area to do an interview. I got to the, to the picnic bench, and I sat down on the bench. And as soon as I hit the bench, one of the media yelled, “Take off your helmet!” And I, and, and it hit me in that moment, like, “What if I don’t want to,” you know? And so I said—I, I smiled, and I said, “What if I don’t want to?” And then I just did the interview with my helmet on. Just that one time. And as I was doing the interview, it, it felt empowering, you know? There—I was struggling with this relationship with the media, where they feel they can just take, take, take, and I felt like I had nothing to myself. And I felt like that, that gesture of rebellion helped me stay sane and not feel like I was givin’ up too much. And so it became a kind of routine that, throughout the whole season, after practice, I’d always wear a helmet doin’ my, doin’ my interviews. And that became another thing that, that added to the Ricky Weirdo story and kinda separated me from my, from my teammates. – [Master:] Good shot. Did you feel more pressure as a result of that? – Nah, I’m asked that question a lot, and, and if I’m being honest, I didn’t, I didn’t feel the pressure. I think part of it is I put so much pressure on myself to be great. A good example of that is my rookie contract, which was another part of the season from hell. The way I looked at it, I thought, you know, “I’ll get a signing bonus, and this is my reward for what I did in college, but everything I do at this level, I should have to earn it.” And so I told my, I told my agent, “I wanna make the minimum base salary, and in order for me to make a lotta money, I need to have to perform.” – Looking back on that, do you regret that? – I do. I do. – [Laughing] – You know? And there’s—and I’ll tell you why. There’s a theme that runs through my whole rookie year. And there’s a term in football: rookie mistakes. I made a lot of rookie mistakes. You know, I was just young and naive and idealistic. You know, and the one thing that I didn’t take into consideration is what if I get hurt? You know? And again, I hadn’t had the experience up until that point of missing any games, so it didn’t even cross my mind. – Do you think you can be idealistic and play football? – I think if you’re an idealist, you’re gonna be disappointed a lot, but if you do enough, you open doors so that your ideals can come to fruition later. And that’s what I’m starting to see now. Things that I believed in, I’m starting to see them implemented more now into the NFL. And I like to think that, you know, my brief stint in the NFL contributed to things moving forward and things changing. – I, I think the biggest one would be marijuana. – [Williams:] Yeah. – And the conversation around marijuana. As you look back on that, as disruptive as you were at the time, speaking out openly about it, how do you look about the current NFL situation and how marijuana is treated and looked at? – It’s crazy. I mean, it’s the NFL, it’s sports in general, but it’s really our, our whole society. You know, I was shamed so much for this, you know, 15 years ago, and now I get calls from ESPN to come on television and talk about it, you know? So again, it’s, it’s, things have moved, and I, I feel like I’ve done my part to be a part of the change, and that feels good. Um, but it was rough, you know? And I think anyone, you know, who’s been a trailblazer will have scars to, to prove it. – [Master:] Think you got that? – Uh, it’s possible. – Anything’s possible. OK, there it is. Thanks for kickin’ it with us. Subscribe to B/R to check out more dope videos like this one.