AUSTIN, Texas -- It’s odd, 17 years after he arrived, that Ricky Williams should be back again and this time inanimate, cast in bronze.
He had, after all, always been the ever-changing athlete. Ricky was not one who could be caught in a pose much less by his opponents. Instead Ricky was a subject tough to get a grip on. The dreads. The visor. The disappearance. The dress. Ricky was all those images. What he wasn’t and never will be is someone who can be captured by a single image or even an 8-foot, 1000-pound statue.
That’s not Ricky. Ricky evolves.
It seems everything these days, from Nick Saban to Tim Tebow’s teary speech after an LSU loss, has to be memorialized. Texas decided Ricky should be. He'll be the next to have his likeness placed outside Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Right there next to Earl.
To be sure it’s a tribute and honor. Over the top? Sure, but college football must have its heroes. And Ricky, one of only two Heisman winners in Texas history, is the Longhorns.
“It was so funny … I had to take [Williams] down to the running backs meeting. They were just in awe,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “Just bringing a rock star in and walking him into the running back room. They were sitting up front and I walked in and said, 'This is Ricky Williams.’ They couldn't move. They just sat there. They didn't say hello. They didn't shake his hand.”
Fourteen years removed from his playing days at Texas, and this is the response Ricky still elicits from people in and around the program. Maybe that is why the statue seems premature. Ricky, who briefly held the NCAA Division I-A career rushing record, is still a living breathing entity, still changing, still affecting people.
Even to Ricky, the statue seems a tad strange.
“It's going to be funny being a student walking past my statue,” Williams said.
Not that he is going to mind it too terribly much.
“I'm going to walk by it every day,” he joked.
On the other hand who, at age 35, with money and opportunity who said “I wake up and I say to myself, 'What grand and glorious adventure do I want to do today,” would decide that the adventure would be to go back to school?
“I want to get a “T” ring,” Williams said. “It’s one of the things I wanted to do a long time ago.”
Despite wandering away from what the public perceived his goals should have been on the football field, Ricky is actually all about goals. Setting them and meeting them. It’s how he came to be at Texas. He wanted to have an impact on a program. He wanted to be a part of something.
In the process he became something.
“I remember when he broke the record, we knew he was going to do it in the Texas A&M game, we just didn’t know how he was going to do it,” ESPN broadcaster Brent Musburger, who called the game in 1998, said during the statue ceremony.
He should have known. Musburger had been watching Ricky for more than three years. By that time it was clear that nothing Ricky ever did was understated or subtle. So, when he went through three tackles for 60 yards and into the end zone, it should not have been shock to anyone.
Those are the types of memories David Demming has attempted to evoke with this statue. A Texas fan can now look at this piece of art and remember what Ricky did in those four years.
The fans gets a glimpse at the dreads -- not nearly as long as they would be, and the player -- really at the peak of what he would be -- and they are able to remember a few days and plays from the falls of the late 90s.
But not even Ricky believes this statue resembles who he is, or much less, who he might become now that football is over.
“Close enough,” he said.
Not really. Not at all.