In the documentary Ricky Williams Takes the High Road, the former NFL running back says the NFL tested him for marijuana at least 500 times. The number is surely one NFL record Williams will hold for a long time.
The New Orleans Saints selected Williams as the fifth pick of the 1999 NFL Draft. Head Coach Mike Ditka traded away all of the Saints remaining picks in order to select the bright young star. The two appeared on the cover of ESPN The Magazine together with a headline that would sum up Williams’ career, “For Better or For Worse.”
Williams had mild success with 2-1,000 yard seasons before being traded to Miami in 2002 for four draft picks. His first season with the Dolphins brought Ricky to the top of the NFL’s running back position for the year with 1,853 yards, earning him a spot on the Pro Bowl roster.
On May 14, 2004 Ricky Williams tested positive for marijuana for the first time and was suspended for four games. After a third positive test he retired early from football later that summer. He returned after paying his dues and came back to the Dolphins in 2005 where he shared most of his field time with Ronnie Brown.
By February 2006, Williams again tested positive for marijuana and then again in 2007. He agreed to a strict regimen of multiple tests per week. He neared the end of his career in Miami before finishing strong in Baltimore by surpassing the career 10,000-yard mark.
The reclusive player admitted that during the time of the multiple drug tests per week, he saw his testers so much they became family. Ricky’s wife Kirstin spoke of one of the testers.
“He tested Ricky and left them both (stickers) sitting on the counter and left for 45 minutes and then came back for the sticker that he needed.”
The honest Williams could have easily switched the tests, and Kirstin knows the thought never crossed his mind.
“It was difficult at the time,” Ricky admits in the documentary. “But looking back I’m appreciative of it. It was the first step to letting go of the image and starting to find out who I was underneath the image.”
The full documentary is available on Wednesday, July 13, 2016 at www.si.com/films.