Ricky Williams was all over football for a decade and a half. He won a Heisman Trophy in college, was First-Team All-Pro in the NFL and became a noted proponent of recreational marijuana use. Now 39, Williams is still in the thick of the football world. The University of Texas alum is an analyst for Longhorn Network in Austin and he has opinions on modern marijuana use amongst NFL players. Speaking to ThePostGame Sunday from Tampa, Williams discussed a proposal for positive tests for marijuana in the NFL, the first time he met new Texas head coach Tom Herman and what Nick Saban taught him during their time together with the Dolphins.
ThePostGame: You retired about five years ago. Since then, what has changed about you and what has stayed the same?
WILLIAMS: What has changed…well, I put on a couple pounds. Just kidding. I'm not in pain all the time. I think I just got used to that, playing football all the time, all my life, hurting all the time. Since retiring, I've got a couple injuries that'll flare up for a week or two, but for the most part, my body feels good. I have less stress in my life for sure. What has stayed the same? I still have a desire to be the best at what I do. I still like to stay busy. And I still like to work out.
TPG: There was a story in the spring about your involvement in a marijuana gym in San Francisco. Is that something that keeps you busy?
WILLIAMS: I'm a partner. The thing with marijuana I find interesting is it's so new, people don't want to talk about it. It's not really a marijuana gym. It's more of a holistic wellness center, where people can come and if they do happen to use cannabis, which is now medically and recreationally legal in California, they're not going to be shunned or pushed away. They'll be supported in the lifestyle they like. There's an obvious connection. I got in a lot of trouble by the NFL for using marijuana and now, it seems like the tide is changing and people are starting to see that it's not only a bad thing and there's a good side to come from it.
TPG: What are some things you do to relieve stress now?
WILLIAMS: I practice yoga still. I meditate. Mainly, I stay busy. I'm the type of person I like to do things and remain productive.
TPG: We could have a conversation about marijuana for hours, but it seems like people want the league to change the marijuana policy, whether it's the Le'Veon Bell or the Randy Gregory situation or something else. What is your reaction and do you have think about getting involved with the NFL changing its policies?
WILLIAMS: I think about it a lot. I've had conversations. And my big thing is now that we know, it's not as bad as we've been told, I think it's ridiculous that people are losing hundreds of thousands of dollars and reputations are ruined when it's not necessary anymore. I think the NFL, the way they treat cannabis use is punitive and I don't think it's fair, especially considering what they ask football players to do on a daily basis. Football players, I guarantee they're in pain 100 percent of the time during the football season and a lot of the offseason too. I think the NFL, it's their responsibility to find healthy alternatives for people to take care of them.
TPG: Do you have a proposal for how long suspensions should be or another solution?
WILLIAMS: My proposal is...my case is a specific example...they drug test football players and they found THC metabolites in my urine and then I was put in the program and treated essentially like a criminal. But if you look at my public record, I was a model teammate, I did a lot of work in the community, I was good for the NFL. And I think if they're gonna suspend people, they should make sure their behavior is connected to something that's embarrassing the league or getting them in trouble. And then they should try to help the players, and if they find they can't help the players, then maybe a suspension is needed, but you have to take care of players who have put their bodies and lives on the line for the league.
TPG: What is that program like? Is it rehab?
WILLIAMS: No. It's basically like I was tested ten times a month and if I wanted to travel or go anywhere, I basically had to tell them where I was gonna be, what time I was gonna be there. It just was crazy.
TPG: Was that one of the rougher patches of your career?
WILLIAMS: I mean I dealt with it and I made the most of it. I'd say the roughest patch of my career was probably my rookie season, just being hurt. I think the toughest part of the NFL is dealing with injuries. It's not only that you're in pain, but you have to go perform at a high level while you're in pain.
TPG: Have you talked with Tom Herman yet?
WILLIAMS: I have. I sent him a text and had a conversation a day or two after he was hired. It's kind of funny. There's been a story going around Austin…he was a graduate assistant at Texas in 1999. He literally arrived on campus about a week before I left campus to get ready for the draft. We had a parade celebrating the Heisman Trophy after I won, and his first job was to ride in the car with me and protect me. It's funny how we've gone full circle and he's got the job at my alma mater.
TPG: Did he do a good job with that?
WILLIAMS: He did a great job. One of the things I did, since he was new on the job, was I taught him how to do the "Hook 'em" sign with his hand. So we'll be forever connected in Texas lore.
Tom Herman's assignment as a graduate assistant with Texas in Jan. 1999 was to sit on Ricky Williams float during parade in Austin pic.twitter.com/A7UwLEa67A
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) November 26, 2016
TPG: I'm looking at these pictures right now. Did you guys talk in the 18 years in between?
WILLIAMS: Not at all. Not once.
TPG: What'd you say to him in the text?
WILLIAMS: Well, first I told him congratulations and told him I think he's going to do a great job. Then when we sat and talked -- I cover the team for Longhorn Network -- so he asked me what I thought about the team. I told him the team has a lot of talent. You just have to care about them as much as Charlie [Strong] did and keep high expectations, but within reach.
TPG: And he didn't offer you a job on the spot?
WILLIAMS: He didn't. And I was a little ambivalent about it. I've been thinking about coaching. But I see that coaches don't get much time to do other things. We'll see. We'll see. I'll try to keep a bug in his ear, so if a vacancy becomes open, he'll at least have a conversation with me about it.
TPG: What type of coach would you want to be?
WILLIAMS: I'd want to coach in college if I coached anywhere. I'd want to start as a running backs coach to really learn what coaching is all about. I know the game of football and I know how to get people to play, but there are a lot of little details that go into being a good head coach. I'd want to work under someone I really respect and hopefully one day become a head coach.
TPG: You mentioned Charlie. How tough were these last three years with such high expectations not reached?
WILLIAMS: Yeah, I think it was tough for the fans, but being around football, I understand it's a process and there are hills and valleys. And I think about when I got to Texas, they weren't very good, but John Mackovic did a god job changing the culture and then Mack Brown came in and won a national championship. I look at what Charlie did. He came in and brought athletes to Austin. He changed the culture. Hopefully, Tom Herman will come in and knock it out of the park and get us another national championship.
TPG: If Tom comes in and succeeds with some of Charlie's guys, do you think it'll help Charlie's legacy in Austin?
WILLIAMS: For sure. It's funny. Charlie left and people were wildly disappointed with not making a bowl game the last two years, but everyone loved Charlie. I think they really respected him and believed he cared about the kids. It's just unfortunate he couldn't turn it into victories.
TPG: Joe Theismann has been critical of the 49ers for awarding Colin Kaepernick the team's courage award. When you signed with the Toronto Argonauts for a season, he said he was angry they signed an "addict" and a "disgrace to the game." I don't know if you have any thoughts on Joe's comments...
WILLIAMS: That's Joe being Joe. That's what he gets paid to do. I'm sure in a couple of months he'll be sticking his foot in his mouth again. Like I said, that's Joe being Joe.
TPG: Any predicts for the national championship game?
WILLIAMS: I'm a Nick Saban guy. I think Alabama's just too difficult. Too big, too fast, too experience. I'm going with "Roll Tide."
TPG: Do you think Nick Saban gets too much flak for his NFL stint with the Dolphins?
WILLIAMS: Well, not really. I don't think he liked the NFL as much as college because he didn't have as much say in what went down. I think the success he's had at the collegiate level more than makes up for the years he had in Miami. The year I was with him in Miami, we had a rough start, but we finished the season winning six games in a row. I have no doubt that if Nick really wanted to come back to the NFL, he could be successful.
TPG: What did you learn from him in that year?
WILLIAMS: I learned that football is much simpler than you make it. If you play hard and you play smart, everything takes care of itself. I think one thing that Nick talks about a lot is the process. He really got me out of my head about worrying about stats or numbers or performance and really got me into doing my job and trusting that everything would work out. And it did.