There are three Longhorns I hold above all others in the Sailor Ripley Texas Longhorns pantheon.
TJ Ford, Vince Young and Ricky Williams.
These are guys who I loved enough at UT to actively care about their trials and tribulations "at the next level". I cared enough about these guys that I would argue with and even push people in bars while defending them. I would bet money I didn't have on their Pro Bowl prospects. When they faltered or got hurt, I was sympathetic, empathetic...even distraught.
Don't get me wrong, Earl Campbell is a Tyler Minotaur. I've seen the video. When David Thomas gets a Super Bowl ring, I am very glad. That guy was a fantastic Horn and saved our asses in bygone Rose Bowls, but the affinity for these three main guys speaks directly to their recency in this media-saturated age, their star power and why in this case, one of them merits an ESPN documentary, ESPN 30 For 30: Run Ricky Run.
Let's get it out of the way, the crux of the issue is as a fanbase Ricky embarrassed us.
The progenitor of the great Mack Brown Longhorn resurgence, the kid that beat Nebraska in Lincoln, won the Heisman and whipped Poor Jackie Sherill's malfeasant maroon ass really made us look bad.
You know, us. Longhorns. The fans. He really let us down.
Of course, it's apparently great deal messier than this.
Ricky grew up without a dad. Or at least he did after his dad was booted for at best being a creepy fucker and at worst, a child abuser. Let that sink in and let me know if you have a similar tale and how that has affected your career, assuming you were on the cover of SI five times and had reporters in your face all the time.
As I watched the 30:30, I took some notes and I wanted to make sure I called Ricky on his short comings so as not to come off as a homer apologist. The abandonment of his kids is what stuck out to me. You HAVE to raise your babies. I learned that from my mom.
And my dad.
Unfortunately, his behavior is right in line with copious studies of single parent homes. It's so predictable, it's banal. His mom even articulated an unsuccessful attempt to truncate the pattern. The difference for us is Ricky carries the football better than most that ever played the game. And he's ours. That's how he's different to us than waves of kids who you'll never hear about.
The NFL is an absolute human meat grinder. I love that Kyle Turley showed up to speak for Ricky. I can remember Kyle defending a Saints-era Ricky at the end of a play where some guy twisted Ricky's head back by tearing the opponent's helmet off and trying to throw it into the stands. Please report to Austin and discuss passion with our O Line. Unanimous review of Ricky seems to be "...complains the least, plays the hardest...".
Kyle can also discuss NFL-afflicted damage, when he's not suffering migraine headaches and dementia.
I suspect playing for that horseshit Dave Wannstedt offense in Miami that year was a lot like playing three NFL seasons. (By the way Scipio has a series on "great NFL backs" which is forthcoming and very cool. Look forward to that.)
Suffice to say given a burgeoning Charles Strickland personality disorder, a higher than average IQ and a realization that he was being beaten into a bloody pulp, he walked away. Should he have figured it out earlier than two weeks before training camp? In a perfect world, yes. But maybe that's when he figured it out. Maybe that was when he failed his piss test. I don't know but as Dan Le Batard (which means Dan The Bastard, incidentally - cool name) points out, Ricky may be the most sane of all of us.
Kid was wholly unhappy and tried to find some happiness and some meaning. Been there.
I also want to say I laughed out loud at Joe Theismann ranting and raving about how he was ashamed he shared Toronto Argonauts heritage with Ricky. Really, Joe? The Toronto Argonauts? How did the Argonauts even get there? Were the airlifted and then dropped by parachutes into Lake Ontario?
I digress, the comparison of Joe "Ego Unchecked" Theismann with quiet, humble, fantastic teammate Ricky Williams was a really crystalline moment in the program for me. Plus, I grew up in Dallas, so fuck Joe Heisman-less Theismann. Perhaps you'd like to hold Ricky's?
Anyway, I never get tired of watching him run. His gait is utterly distinctive. I saw him at multiple OU games. I was at the A&M game when broke the record. I marveled at at how many highlights passed by that I saw in person or at least live on TV.
He still wears is Horns gear. As usual, Mack comes across as a star.
The real key here is Ricky could care less about what I have to say. Dude is centered and seems increasingly at peace. He likes playing football and will quit when he doesn't. I hope he can reconcile and hang with all his kids. And I'm looking forward to watching him play next season.
Assuming he decides to suit up.
Hook 'em, Ricky.
If you missed it, check out the show. If you saw, let me know what you thought.