If Ricky Williams played in the National Football League today, he very likely would never have been suspended.
However, the former Miami Dolphins running back played professionally in a time when marijuana use was frowned upon and received a strict punishment.
Williams was suspended for the entirety of the 2006 season because of a marijuana test, and he retired from the 2004 season after he was facing another suspension. So, in reality, marijuana forced him to miss two full seasons.
Because of that, Williams was once deemed a troubled athlete. However, cannabis is far from just a “drug” for Williams, who rushed for over 10,000 yards in his 11 NFL seasons.
CLICK HERE FOR MORE SPORTS COVERAGE ON FOXNEWS.COM
Ricky Williams speaks onstage during weekend two, day one of the Austin City Limits Music Festival at Zilker Park on Oct. 8, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Rick Kern/WireImage)
The ex-running back has since been a tremendous advocate for both medical and recreational cannabis and has since founded his own marijuana brand, Highsman. The name derives from the Heisman Trophy he won in 1998.
This weekend, Williams will be in Las Vegas for a meet and greet with fans before the Super Bowl, bringing cannabis and the NFL world together on the league’s biggest stage.
Imagine reading that 10 years ago – a cannabis promotion at the Super Bowl in Las Vegas.
However, the country has come a long way.
“Every year, it becomes easier and easier where there’s more and more support. I just feel fortunate to be a part of this movement,” Williams told Fox News Digital in a recent interview.
“It’s been a big part of my story, but I’ve been in the industry now for about five years, so I’ve had an up-close personal look at the ins and outs and ups and downs. I just feel very fortunate… I feel very fortunate to be on the ground floor making it happen.”
Marijuana has become legalized in some capacity in all but four states and is fully legal in half of the country, a massive ascension from 2012 when Washington and Colorado became the first states to approve recreational marijuana use.
Williams admits his life could be much different if the country did not adapt.
Ricky Williams, #34 of the Miami Dolphins, carries the ball during the game against the Buffalo Bills on Oct. 20, 2002 at Pro Player Stadium in Miami. (Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)
“I’d be in trouble. Probably be hiding my cannabis use. But thank God that as time moves, people figure things out and keep growing,” he says.
It is quite amazing to see how far the country has come on marijuana though. Williams said there have been many lives “that have been ruined by the NFL’s drug policy and all drug tests.”
“Back in 2004, when I ran into all my issues with cannabis, it wasn’t common knowledge that it’s good for you,” Williams says. “It’s taken a lot of advocates, a lot of people, a lot of sacrifice, people putting their necks on the line telling their story for people to hear it. So now, thank God we’re starting to take it for granted, but 20 years ago, it was still so close to the war on drugs… It’s a fascinating topic to see something change dynamically.”
It is commonplace for older generations to be either jealous of the younger ones that have it easier than them. It is the “I went through it, so you have to, too” syndrome.
However, Williams is not jealous one bit of athletes today who can smoke recreationally without an issue.
“I understand how difficult the game is. I’m happy for the players. I have a deep appreciation for how difficult being a professional football player is. I feel proud that I was able to do something to make their lives a little bit easier …
Ricky Williams, #34 of the Miami Dolphins, tries to get away from Ted Johnson, #52 of the New England Patriots, at Gillette Stadium on Dec. 29, 2002 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS STRIP CLUB OFFERING TRAVIS KELCE, TAYLOR SWIFT $1 MILLION PRIVATE PACKAGE IF CHIEFS WIN SUPER BOWL
“People that have it easy, it looks fun, but I wouldn’t want to be like that – I’m proud for everything that I’ve had to work for, because it’s made me the person I am today.”
Of course, one could look at Williams and say that he knowingly broke rules during his playing days and question why he would continue to use marijuana.
“I’m gonna be honest, in the moment, in the time, I had no idea why I was doing what I was doing,” he said. However, after the NFL sent him to rehab, he discovered why.
“And I was doing it because I went a path in life that I was supposed to go down with the money and the fame, and that’s where all the pressure was. But it had very little to do with who I truly am and what I’m truly here to do. So it was kind of like my own conscious sabotaging the experience for me to wake up and find my own path. You know how I know that’s true? Because that’s exactly what happened.”
So, with that said, he obviously has no regrets.
Ricky Williams, #34 of the Miami Dolphins, runs with the ball during a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Oct. 12, 2003 at Alltell Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida. (Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images)
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
“It’s hard for me to have regrets, because I’m so happy with the current product, and the current product wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for those past experiences.”
Follow Fox News Digital’s sports coverage on X and subscribe to the Fox News Sports Huddle newsletter.