Swimmin’ With The Fish…
Was the headline of my favorite ESPN the magazine issue that came out September 16, 2002. I was insanely excited seeing the newest Miami Dolphin Ricky Williams on the cover with Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas, and Jay Fiedler. It felt as if our time had arrived and the Dolphins were instant Super Bowl contenders. To an extent, that was true. Miami was instantly better. MUCH better.
Carry The Rock…
The Dolphins began what would prove to be an insane, roller-coaster relationship with Willams. That ride wasn’t like others, with the slow climb up the hill. No Sir, this ride started with a bang and Williams busting out of the gate with his top moment in Miami, recording over 2200 yards from scrimmage in his very first season with the Dolphins.
Williams captured the 2002 rushing title after leading the NFL in rushing with a whopping 1853 rushing yards. Teams began to take notice of him quickly but were all but powerless to stop the Dolphins power running game. In what was considered the toughest division then, Miami ended the season in a 9-7 three-way tie between the Jets and Patriots, with the Bills not far behind at 8-8.
The Long Horn Express…
Another great accomplishment came in 1998 with Williams wearing a Texas Longhorn uniform, in which he won the Heisman Trophy. Rushing for 2124 yards and 27 TD’s, Williams produced one of the best seasons in college football history.
It was then soon after that Saints head coach Mike Ditka gave away the entire New Orleans draft to select Williams at No. 5 overall. Literally giving the entire farm for the LongHorn (pun intended). It was a short 3-year tenure with New Orleans as was Coach Ditka’s as he was relieved after the 1999 season where Williams and the Saints finished with a horrid 3-13 record. It was clear from the start the Saints and Williams would never work.
Good thing for Miami.
Run Ricky Run…
It wasn’t long before then, head coach Dave Wannstedt noticed the advantage of the power back in South Beach. Williams seemed to thrive in the Miami heat as the Dolphins went 7-1 at home in 2002.
Ricky eventually became a workhorse for Wannstedt as he leaned on the runner play after play. It took a toll on Williams as the roller coaster then started to derail. The strain on their relationship began to worsen. Williams thought carrying the load as he was asked was unfair.
Miami, after a 10-6 winning season, were trending upwards, thinking playoffs, and then all of a sudden the wheels fell completely off.
The superstar running back shocks the entire Dolphins organization, NFL, and sports world with one word.. retirement. Miami Fans were left wondering how they had just lost a rushing champion, Pro Bowler, and First-Team All-Pro one week before training camp.
After leading the league twice in carries, (383/392) Williams sited the workload as a reason. It came out later that his use of marijuana differed from the NFL. Then on his episode of ESPN’s series A Football Life, almost 10 years to the day, sited Miami’s lack of a starting-caliber quarterback as another reason for the sudden retirement.
After all, hopes were up for Miami, building off of a 10-6 season the Dolphins ended the season with a miserable 4-12 record, proving just how important Williams’s production was to the team.
One Chance, Two chance, Last chance…
Ricky Williams Stars In: The Wild Cat..
In 2005, Miami had little choice but to seek security in the NFL Draft, selecting the University of Auburn running back Ronnie Brown with the No. 2 overall pick.
Williams would come out of retirement and rejoin the team amid legal action with Miami seeking the repayment of signing bonus money paid.
Ricky and fellow back Ronnie were about to make game-changing history.
A third of Williams’s top moments came on September 21, 2008, in Foxborough, Massachusetts. The Patriots, while riding a 21-game regular-season win streak, were favorites against the lowly 0-2 Dolphins, who were 1-15 the season before. However, the confident Patriots were in for a shock.
Miami, painfully off of a franchise worse season had installed a scheme used in college that most of the players believed to be pretty much useless.
However, as Bill Belichick and New England’s stellar defense helplessly witnessed, Brown, in the shotgun at quarterback and Williams coming in motion toward him, registered 118 yards and four touchdowns in only six plays to bring the Patriots winning streak to a sudden halt.
A lot like a Roller coaster off its rails. Miami went on to have an 11-5 season, Completing the biggest one-season turn around in NFL history.
Little do many realize, that wild cat breakout game for Williams, Brown, and the Dolphins would go on to be adapted all over the College ranks as well as the NFL in the R.P.O offenses (Run Pass Option) we see so often.
Love him or hate him or love to hate him, Ricky Williams is a trendsetter and forever has a place in the Dolphins record books, memories and in the hearts of Fins fans all over, and in several Patriots Nightmares.