What ever happened to former Saints RB Ricky Williams? - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

What ever happened to former Saints RB Ricky Williams?

He speaks, and they listen. He offers advice, and they take it.

"He helps us out in all different ways," running back Junior Session said. "In school and on the field, and he teaches us lessons, on and off the field. He's like a big brother to us."

Graduate Assistant Matt Bass added, "It was kinda like shock and disbelief that a guy like that would be coming to a D-1, AA going to be, to come coach us, it was pretty exciting."

Ricky Williams has worn many hats and helmets, but his current role is one he cherishes.

"Really as a coach, kinda a facilitator of information, a bit of a motivator, definitely a teacher, and I think what I love the most about coaching is that you're asked to do all these different things," Williams said.

It certainly is a "different" world for Williams, who made history with the Saints in 1999. Never before had an NFL franchise traded away all of its draft picks to select just one talent.

Sure, Williams was the reigning Heisman Trophy winner who broke the NCAA career rushing record at Texas, but Mike Ditka's quest to get Ricky became an obsession.

It was a marriage between a coach and player that began in the most bizarre way.

"It was really supposed to be Ditka's big splash, and it was big splash out of town because really he put the Saints in a bad spot, and he really put Ricky Williams in a bad spot," Larry Holder of NOLA.com said.

"You can almost compare it to Reggie Bush, larger than life player, Heisman Trophy winner, coming to save the franchise, and for Ricky Williams, obviously it didn't turn out that way. Add it all up, and it was just a recipe for disaster."

Williams only lasted three seasons in New Orleans, helping the Saints earn their first-ever playoff win in 2000. However, the franchise drafted future star Deuce McAllister the following year and eventually traded Williams to the Miami Dolphins.

"When I was traded, I didn't want to be traded. I really started to make New Orleans home. I just felt like everyone really welcomed me, and I felt like I was part of the city. Even when I went back for the Super Bowl last year, people recognized me, and it was like old aunts and uncles welcoming me back home," Williams said.

And he keeps those Louisiana connections, from family in Ponchatoula to good friends in the Crescent City, Williams remains fond of his time with the Black and Gold.

"I still have a Saints tattoo on my ankle, and it really was my entrance into the NFL. I'll be a Saint for the rest of my life. They've continued to get better. When I was there, we won our first playoff game in Saints history, and Haslett did a good job of creating winning teams. Then we he left, they brought in Coach Payton and really an amazing coaching staff. And Drew Brees and all these great players, and they're a winner now. The days of the 'Aints are literally forgotten. We stopped by the facility last year when we played Southeastern Louisiana, and just the energy in the facility, it's so light, it's so nice, and you just feel like a winner when you walk in there," Williams said.

Through the ups and downs of his playing days, from a Pro Bowl appearance to a year-long suspension, Williams was known for his bizarre antics and ongoing marijuana use. He was later diagnosed with clinical depression and social anxiety disorder, but says he doesn't put a lot of stock into what others think.

"I guess I never put much value in being understood, because I think we're all different," Williams said. "It's not really possible to understand a person wholly. You can understand maybe where they are at a point in their life, what they're going through, but really understanding someone is not really possible."

Matt Bass added, "Heard about the whole deal with weed and everything else, and I asked him about his personal opinion, what really happened, the TV says one thing, what really happened. He sat down with me, and told me exactly how it went. He doesn't impose his stories on you, but if you ask, he'll tell you with a straight face. He's kinda cool that way."

When Williams retired from the NFL for good, Incarnate Word Head Coach Larry Kennan contacted Ricky to join his staff.

"Very bright, very smart human being," Kennan said. "And knows football extremely well, and when he speaks, those guys listen, so he doesn't have to speak loudly. He doesn't have to yell at them, he just says this is what you should have done, this is what you can do, here's what it ought to look like, and they listen. And he's arguably the best running back to ever play in the state of Texas, got a Heisman Trophy and all our young backs, they love him and admire him, and he was a hero so."

Walking into Gayle and Tom Benson Stadium for the first time, Williams knew it was the perfect fit.

"First day I walked on campus, I parked over there," Williams said. "I walked and I looked up, and I saw Mr. Benson's name all over the place here, and it was ironic. Then after I got the job, my first three pieces of mail from were all from Tom Benson, congratulating me on the job, so it all comes back around I guess."

And now, on the practice fields in San Antonio, Tx., Ricky Williams the football coach continues his journey. It's a venue he refers to as home, a place he'd like to stay for years to come.

"You know, we had the first winning record in school history, and we're still looking to pack the stands," he said. "I just look forward to maybe five or six years down the road, when we're winning and really going good, saying I remember when there were 200 people in the stands, and we couldn't do this and we couldn't do this. Just being a part of building something is something that's exciting for me. And with Coach Kennan, he really invites all the coaches, really all the players to take ownership of the team. Really wherever we go, it's really going to be from the sweat of our brow, and kinda the way we look at things and what we do. Every day coming to work, knowing that I'll be listened to, and my ideas will be received and the guys like me and listen to me, it makes it a lot of fun."

Larry Kennan added, "When we walk into a player's home, in Houston or Dallas or San Antonio, and Ricky Williams walks in, the family goes crazy, because here's a guy they all admired and loved, and watched play, and he may add more in recruiting than any other aspect of it, but really it's about perception and credibility."

So this former football star will continue to share his words of wisdom with the next generation.

"When we're doing something, I know he'd been through the stuff," Junior Session said. "So we all listen to him closer than the other coaches, because he'd done been through it, and he done did it."

Williams added, "Thing about football, it's a game where you can play it or coach it your whole life, and you can still get better on a daily basis, and that's really what I love about it. It's been great, and I think it's one of those win-win situations, where I'm bringing something to the school, and the school is bringing a lot to my life."

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