Former Dolphins Star Ricky Williams Discusses New Dating App, Sudden 2004 Retirement

It’s been nearly 10 years since one of the Miami Dolphins’ - and the NFL’s - most enigmatic players carried his last football in a Dolphins uniform


So.  What’s your sign?

Ricky Williams wants to know. He wants to set you up on a date. Yes, THAT Ricky Williams.

It’s been nearly 10 years since one of the Miami Dolphins’ - and the NFL’s - most enigmatic players carried his last football in a Dolphins uniform.

Now, he’s launching a dating app to his already diverse plate of interests... oh, and talking about that abrupt retirement in 2004.

Those are just a couple of the insights Williams offers up in a spirited, hour-long interview posted online Monday.

Speaking on “The Fish Tank,” a Miami Dolphins podcast hosted by former Pro Bowl wide receiver O.J. McDuffie and former team media relations assistant Seth Levit, Williams dives deep into his “edgy”- his word - career.

That career was highlighted by a Heisman Trophy, a first round draft selection and, in Miami’s case, a magical 2002 season that set team records for rushing yards and rushing touchdowns.

“It’s one of my favorite things to talk about that I don’t really ever get to a chance to talk about,” Williams says, “because it was a crossroads in my life - 2002.”

The Dolphins and former head coach Dave Wannstedt paid handsomely to bring Williams to Miami from New Orleans, coughing up four draft picks including two first rounders.

“It was amazing. It was a team that had a winning tradition unlike the Saints - a team that had an amazing, amazing defense," Williams said. "It seemed like I was the missing piece.  I felt like I was home.”

“I got to be the star of the symphony. I got to be the lead singer.  I reflect on 2002 - it’s tragic the way it ended, but I reflect on what we did accomplish and it’s amazing," he said.

The Dolphins went 9-7 that year, including 7-1 at home, but missed the playoffs via the tiebreaker. Williams followed up that season with another 1,300 yards, but 2004 brought calamity.

Two weeks before the start of training camp, Wannstedt got a phone call - and now we know what he heard.

“The conversation started off as being difficult,” Williams admits.  “I called him up and said 'I’ve been really feeling like it’s time for me to do something different in my life and go a different direction'.”

That sent the Dolphins' coach and his team reeling.  They went 4-12 that season and Wannstedt resigned.

Williams, meanwhile, went to the other side of the globe - Australia.

“My intent when I retired was to get as far away from football as I could," Williams said. "I went to a country where people didn’t watch football. Nobody had any idea who I was.”

A couple of months after Williams announced his surprise retirement, he spoke to Wannstedt and then General Manager Rick Spielman.  

“I was trying to explain to them my rationale and explain to them why I decided to retire.  One of the issues was I was in the midst of a contract negotiation.  I’m naïve," he said. "If there’s a player who’s proven that they’re willing to put their guts, their heart on the line and play and you’re going to give them the ball 400 times a year, that you should go out of your way to take care of that person.”

“I felt like you guys weren’t doing a good job taking care of me and making me feel good about making me sacrifice my body for the team.”

Since that call, Williams practiced photography in Australia.  He also spent a month in India learning yoga.  

But his time in Miami and football wasn’t done.  He came back in 2005 after sitting out 4 games from a drug suspension.  He was suspended again for all of 2006, playing instead in the Canadian Football League. 

He missed almost the entire season in 2007 with injury, before playing in all 48 games for Miami from 2008-2010, just 301 yards shy of being the franchise’s all-time leading rusher.

"I'm not a person with a lot of regrets, but I do regret that I didn’t finish my career in Miami," he admitted.

Instead, he retired from the NFL in 2012 after a final season in Baltimore. That’s when things really got interesting.

He earned his degree from his alma mater, the University of Texas.  He started working on two master’s degrees.  He learned acupuncture in Los Angeles.  He started a herbal wellness company. 

Now, he’s trying his hand at the dating market matching technology to one of his lifelong passions - astrology.

“As an NFL player, we have all this energy that we’re used to putting to something.  When we’re done playing, at least for me, I had to keep finding things to put that energy toward,” Williams says.

“I feel so fortunate that I found enough things to devote myself to where I can continue to work toward excellence and help my life stay meaningful.”

Williams also recently patched things up with his former coach, speaking to him for the first time since he retired at the Super Bowl in Miami this past February.

“He went out of his way to apologize to me and say, ‘I realize the mistake that cost me my job was that I didn’t respect the quarterback position enough,’” Williams says.

Williams also spills on his feelings about former head coach Nick Saban, the Wildcat, former backfield partner Ronnie Brown, having a photographic memory and even the Hall of Fame.  

With more than 10,000 yards rushing in 11 seasons under his belt, he hopes he’s someday considered, but he’s content if it never happens and content in his own skin.

“I think the burden of being someone who’s an individual and being ahead of your time is that you’re not going to be appreciated until later," he said. "I’m starting to experience that now.  It’s worth it.”

 “I’m really loving life right now.  I know there’s a lot of difficult things going on right now, but I’ve really taken the opportunity to go inward and work on myself.”

You can hear the entire interview as well as dozens of other installments of “The Fish Tank” podcasts on the team’s website.

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