Taking it easy
Williams having fun preparing for Cotton Bowl
Posted: Tuesday December 29, 1998 06:47 PM
DALLAS (AP) -- After a whirlwind month of award banquets, news conferences and public appearances, Texas running back Ricky Williams said Tuesday he's been taking it easy while getting ready for the Cotton Bowl.
Then press him for details and he tells about high school cheerleaders waiting for him outside his hotel room, about going to a Dallas Cowboys game and meeting the team and about hanging out for a night playing video games at Emmitt Smith's house.
"I'm having fun," he said, flashing his familiar grin.
Williams will play his final game as a Longhorn Friday morning against Mississippi State. He's set a lot of records in his career, but he's 0-2 in bowls, so he's hoping to go out on a winning note.
"I already have the Heisman Trophy, so I don't have anything to prove," he said. "I just want to win."
Williams spent Sunday night in a vacant radio booth at Texas Stadium watching the Dallas Cowboys play the Washington Redkins. But his eyes weren't always on the game.
"I was looking at the cheerleaders the whole time," he said.
Late in the fourth quarter, Williams moved down to the field, standing in the tunnel leading to the Cowboys' locker room. After the game, coach Chan Gailey and several players stopped to greet Williams, a gesture he greatly appreciated, he said.
"You see those guys on TV, but they're regular people just like you and me," Williams said. "It was kind of a neat feeling."
Emmitt Smith was the happiest about meeting Williams, and Williams was most excited about meeting Smith. They decided to get together Monday night.
Mutual friends arranged for Williams to go to Smith's house. Williams was there about four hours, spending most of the time playing video games with Smith and his younger brother, Emory.
"They got mad because they couldn't beat me," Williams said.
Williams said he and Smith mostly chitchatted, with football only coming up incidentally. However, Williams said the little bit of advice Smith had about the NFL meant a lot.
"He just told me that it's not much harder than college," Williams said. "That kind of put my mind at ease because I've been worried about that."
When he returned to the team's hotel, Williams found "eight or Nine" female high school cheerleaders outside his room hoping for an autograph. He obliged, but he made them earn it.
"I made them do about 10 pushups," he said. "And they did."
Williams hopes the fun continues Friday morning against the Bulldogs.
Mississippi State allowed 171.9 rushing yards per game this season, while Williams averaged a national-best 193.1 yards himself. The Cotton Bowl record of 265 yards set in 1954 by Rice's Dicky Maegle could be within Williams' grasp.
He doesn't expect it to happen, he said.
"I think the way Mississippi State plays, they'll come after me. Hopefully I can get enough yards to help us win," Williams said.
Mississippi State defensive coordinator Joe Lee Dunn said his team knows Williams will be his usual spectacular self, so their objective is to shut down the rest of Texas' offense.
"After watching all the film and deciphering all the things, the guy that really makes them go is their quarterback," Dunn said. "Ricky is going to get his yards. The big thing is to make sure he doesn't get one of those 60-70 yard runs for a touchdown."
Another element that makes this game special for Williams is the memory of Doak Walker, the former Southern Methodist star who died earlier this year. The two became close in December of 1997 after Williams won the college running back award named for Walker.
The game will be played on January 1, which would've been Walker's 72nd birthday. It's also the 50th anniversary of his second of two MVP efforts in the Cotton Bowl, played in a stadium known as "The House That Doak Built" because it was expanded to handle the crowds he drew. And the Longhorns have been practicing at SMU, Walker's alma mater located just a few blocks from where he grew up.
Williams said he hasn't thought about all that yet.
"I'm sure on game day it'll hit me and I'll be very emotional," said Williams. He wore Walker's No. 37 the last time he played in the Cotton Bowl, but said he won't repeat the tribute because he doesn't want to cheapen the first time he did it.
"He was my motivation [this year] when things went bad. I knew what he was fighting and he never gave up. ... Hopefully, I can have a great game. I'm sure that would be a great birthday gift for him."
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