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Following a legend

Texas Tech's Williams trying to make name for himself

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Posted: Tuesday December 29, 1998 06:13 PM

  Not too shabby: In 22 starts, Ricky Williams (left) has rushed for 2,476 yards Brian Bahr/Allsport

SHREVEPORT, Louisiana (AP) -- The other Ricky Williams has twice outrun the Heisman Trophy winner of the same name.

Still, making a name for himself has been a tough task for Texas Tech sophomore Ricky Williams, despite 1,582 yards rushing, a school-record 13 touchdowns and the head-to-head success against his namesake.

Williams was a third-team AP All-American and second-team All Big 12 Conference pick. On both lists, he is behind the Texas running back who won the Heisman and is the NCAA Division I-A career rushing leader.

Head-to-head, however, Texas Tech's Ricky Williams has the edge.

This season, Texas Tech beat Texas 42-35 as its running back outrushed the Longhorns senior 148-141. The Red Raiders also won in 1997, their true freshman outgaining the eventual Doak Walker Award winner 131-80.

"That's the only thing I can do to get people's minds off me being the other Ricky Williams ... being able to outrush him or beat them," Williams said.

"People blow it up a lot. I'm used to it. The positive side to it is I had a chance to make a name for myself, even though we've got the same name," he said.

The Longhorns' Ricky Williams plays his last game for No. 20 Texas in the Cotton Bowl on New Year's Day against No. 25 Mississippi State.

After the Independence Bowl on New Year's Eve against Mississippi (6-5), Williams still has two full seasons remaining at Texas Tech (7-4).

"He has a bright future. He had a lot of carries left here," said Texas Tech coach Spike Dykes.

"He is a blue-collar guy, a hard worker. We haven't projected him, haven't run him for office. What you see is what you get," he said. "There are no padded stats. He has been a steady force."

Williams is playing for a very balanced offense, 201.7 yards rushing and 202.7 yards passing per game. And he plays behind a starting offensive line that checks in at 323 pounds per man.

"That is a good sign of security. It makes me feel safe knowing that I have big linemen that are willing to work for me. That's the reason I gained over 1,500 yards this year," Williams said.

Jonathan Gray, a 6-foot-5, 357-pound offensive tackle known as "The House," believes "our Ricky Williams is just as good as the Ricky Williams at Texas. I work side-to-side with him and see the adversity he goes through to be a better player."

The 5-foot-7, 182-pound runner is now about 20 pounds heavier than he was in high school in Duncanville, Texas. While he was listed as one of the top running backs in Texas, many college coaches were wary about his size.

Dykes, however, took Williams' high school coach, Bob Alpert, at his word and gave Williams a chance.

Now, after 22 straight starts, Williams has already rushed for 2,476 yards and is 1,742 shy of Byron Hanspard's school record. As a freshman, he broke Hanspard's freshman record with 894 yards.

For the record, he needs 3,803 yards to reach the NCAA career record held by his namesake. That would mean averaging 173 yards per game over his final two regular seasons.

"His record and stats talk for themselves. More than anything, the guy works harder than anyone else I've been around," said junior quarterback Rob Peters, who himself has played nine different positions at Tech.

"Last year he had a great year. This year, he only expanded on that. He is a great role model and great leader for this team because every day he gives his all."

 
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