For a guy who once donned a wedding dress for a magazine cover, then years later, quit football for a bohemian lifestyle, it may appear that Ricky Williams is not suited for coaching.
But, Williams loves to prove people wrong and doesn’t like to be judged. Now, the 1998 Heisman Trophy winner and former 10,000-yard NFL running back is finding his footing as a running backs coach.
This former Texas Longhorn great has discovered a new passion. At 36 years old, he has chosen to use his talent for football by coaching at the newly established program for the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio. He claims he wants to be around young players and will split his time as the running backs coach and as a broadcaster on the Longhorn network.
Williams has always been a little different than the average ballplayer. One of the main reasons he quit football was to find himself and explore the world. He’s known as a person who is willing to step out and try different things, including being one of the first football players to become heavily-involved with yoga and holistic medicine.
Professional athletes are expected to fall into certain categories. Successful ex-athletes typically go into business ventures, coaching or become broadcasters.
Williams is capitalizing on his various skill sets and using his name recognition to take advantage of opportunities.
It always seemed that Williams was much more than a football player. His career in football was an example of how a professional athlete could fall in and out of love with a sport. The public shouldn’t ever doubt him, though. He is constantly surprising his fans and admirers by doing things his way, with humility and dignity.
It has been Williams’ public journey of discovery to find the meaning of life that may have been his biggest contribution in sports. After all his various ventures, including photography, teaching yoga and learning about natural medicines, his sojourn continues.
What Williams may discover next, he may not like very much. The science of concussions, spine and knee injuries are consistently proving how violent and dangerous football is to young athletes. Williams may end up deciding to make his exit from coaching into something else.
But, what profession would hold his interest the most and will he be able to push himself to succeed at it? Did Williams himself suffer too many concussions and is coaching young people what he will find most satisfying at this point in his life?
After all, Ricky Williams just being himself is his biggest contribution to the American sporting landscape. He is one of the few professional athletes to be bold enough to question how others see his role while trying to live to the beat of his own drum.
Howard Alperin is Managing Editor of AmericanizeSoccer.com