Former Miami Dolphins superstar Ricky Williams was so afraid of dealing publicly with his failed drug test that he retired rather than face the media and the NFL over it.
His biggest fear was that people would know he smoked marijuana, he tells Correspondent Mike Wallace in his first television interview since retiring.
“The thing that I had the most trouble with was that after you fail your third test, then it becomes public knowledge,” he tells Wallace. “That’s one thing I couldn’t deal with at the time – people knowing that I smoke marijuana. That was my biggest fear in my whole entire life. I was scared to death of that.”
So last July, after he tested positive for marijuana for a third time, he retired from the NFL and ran away to Australia where he read a lot and discovered his current passion, Ayurveda. Williams is now studying at the California College of Ayurveda to learn the ancient healing science that originated in India thousands of years ago.
Williams, the 27-year-old player who led the league in rushing in 2002, realizes that his sudden decision to quit football disappointed his Miami teammates.
“I didn’t know ahead of time or I would have given them a clue,” he says. “[His decision to retire] happened in the course of two days. Boom boom boom boom, I failed another drug test. That’s when I knew, OK, it was time for me to go.”
The former franchise running back says he owes no one an apology, not even his Dolphin team that foundered as soon as he left. He disagrees that he’s to blame for their current losing season.
“That’s their problem. …It’s not my problem anymore. I played as hard as I could whenever I put that uniform on, but I’m not doing that anymore, you know? I moved on,” he tells Wallace.
“So when is it OK for me to stop playing football? When my knees went out? When my shoulders went out? When I had too many concussions?”
Williams says he’s entirely at peace about giving up football and the huge salary it paid him, though he will not entirely rule out a comeback. His salary this year would have been $5 million, and now his former team is suing him for over $8 million for breach of contract – money he says he does not have.
What he does have now is freedom from the structured life of the NFL, he says, as he embarks on a path to mental and physical health through Ayurveda. But he understands what others perceive.
“To a lot of people, I look very foolish in what I am doing and I understand that,” he says. “[It doesn’t bother me] because the only thing that matters is how I feel, and if I let what they feel affect me, then it changes how I feel.”