MIAMI — How will Ricky Williams be remembered in South Florida?
Will the former Miami Dolphins tailback be remembered for his three 1,000-yard seasons, including an amazing 1,853 rushing yards in 2002? Or will Williams be remembered for his failed drug tests, abrupt retirement/return, and his always-wavering will to play football?
The Dolphins saw the best and worst of Williams during his eight-year tenure in Miami. It was a roller-coaster ride and the most years he spent with his three NFL teams.
Williams in his prime was a fantastic runner. Williams finished with 10,009 rushing yards in a career where he essentially missed three full seasons in 2004, 2006 and 2007. Those numbers could have been even higher had Williams always maintained his focus on football.
But focus and football never added up for Williams, and that is the part that rubs a lot of Dolphins fans the wrong way. Miami was invested in Williams — the Dolphins traded for him in 2002 — but football was never something he truly loved. It was too easy for Williams to walk away. He was much more interested in other things.
Following retirement and drug-related suspensions, Williams was never the same, consistent player when he returned in 2008. He had a one-year resurgence in 2009, rushing for 1,121 yards, because teams couldn't figure out Miami's innovative Wildcat offense. But Williams never rushed for more than 673 yards the rest of his career before retiring this season with the Baltimore Ravens.
Williams is a thoughtful and intelligent person and should do very well in the next phase of his life. But his football phase in the NFL will be viewed through a murky lens, especially in Miami.