The run for No. 1
Williams makes a bid to be top pick, despite critics
Posted: Wednesday April 14, 1999 01:18 AM
SAN DIEGO (CNN/SI) -- Ricky Williams is used to people asking about his hair and his pierced tongue. He knew his association with rapper-slash-agent Master P would require some explanation.
What came as a shock to the Heisman Trophy winner is that anyone would question his talent.
"With the media, no one's ever really said anything negative about me and I finally started hearing things and I just wasn't used to it," he said. "You just realize football is a business. Football, you know, might not be fun anymore." NFL teams at the scouting combine in Indianapolis in February looked at Williams and wondered how he could have gained so much weight. They measured his relatively tiny hands and short arms, and began to worry that Williams' body type might mean he'd fumble.
"I wouldn't call it reality, but I was just kind of happy until then," he said, laughing. "Things were going along pretty good until then.
"[Then] they kind of fell apart. It was really tough for me at first."
At his workout in San Diego, Williams already had shed the nearly 20 pounds of extra weight he showed up with at the combine. By the time Draft Day rolls around, he hopes to have gotten rid of all of his post-season baggage.
"I gain weight every year at this time, so to me it was nothing new," Williams said. "As far as my hands go, yeah, I fumbled a couple times. But I think I made up for it."
Even with the criticism, Williams is expected to be a high pick -- maybe even No. 1. In fact, New Orleans Saints coach Mike Ditka has offered the Cleveland Browns his entire draft worth of picks -- and some next year, too -- for the No. 1 pick so the Saints could grab Williams.
"You're always gonna find faults with people. I mean we all have them, so it's how much you want to dwell on it," said Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher. "I think the one thing you can't lose sight of is production. And production-wise, you talk about [Kentucky quarterback Tim] Couch, you talk about Ricky Williams, these guys are very productive playing against very good competition. Don't overlook that."
Said Gunther Cunningham, the new coach of the Kansas City Chiefs: "I know there are a lot of people that said Marcus Allen can't run fast and, my God, he kept running and running and kept gaining yards. And so I do my own evaluation. I go with my gut. I think Ricky's a special running back. I don't think there's any question about that."
After a good workout for dozens of NFL onlookers in San Diego last week, and the natural way evaluations fluctuate as the draft draws closer, Williams could still be the top pick. Or he could fall out of the top three, if teams decide to stick with a number of impressive quarterbacks.
"I see I have no control over where I go and it's getting kind of weird now, you know, with trading and everything," Williams said. "I'm not even worried about it. Wherever I go, I'm sure I'll like it there."
Williams' laid back attitude carries over into all aspects of his life. It's something the company managing his endorsements already has discovered.
"We're talking to three different shoe companies and one of them is offering me a third of what the other two are. And they're saying 'Take the money' and I'm saying 'I'd rather wear what I'm comfortable wearing, and you know, take less money,'" he said. "And that really frustrates them."
Williams' Draft Day plan could prove equally frustrating, to everyone but himself.
"I think I'm just going to hide somewhere," Williams said. "All by myself."
No TV? No radio? No cell phone?
"Nope," he said, then changed his mind. "A cell phone, just so my agent can call me and tell me where I'm going."
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