Ricky Williams Makes a Name for Himself|
September 29, 1998
By Blayne Beal
Like an episode of I Love Lucy, Ricky may be the star, but Little Ricky cant help but take the spotlight. Taking the spotlight has been unavoidable so far this season for Techs Ricky Williams. In four games, Williams has rushed for 770 yards on 140 carries and currently leads the nation in rushing. He needs only 125 yards to surpass his rushing total of last season, which established a Tech freshman record. Williams vividly remembers the days of following older brother Richard around while he was playing in the Pee Wee leagues. He knew that one day he wanted to be on the field just like his brother and making big plays. Little did he know that almost a decade later he would be playing at Texas Tech and that his big plays would make him the nations rushing leader. The 5-foot-9, 190-pound tailback has been the offensive star thus far for the Red Raiders and he is not showing any signs of the sophomore jinx. He has also accepted a leadership position for the Raider offense. Ricky is really a quiet leader, head coach Spike Dykes said. The players respect him and I know the coaching staff respects him. He leads by example and I am continually amazed by the things he accomplishes. Williams has been rather amazing since he arrived on campus to begin his Texas Tech career in August 1997. With the departure of All-American Byron Hanspard to the NFL, all eyes around West Texas were focused squarely on the Texas Tech tailback slot. The diminutive Williams was well down the list of tailbacks when he arrived, but slowly but surely climbed the depth chart. Williams impressive performance during two-a-days last year was just the start of great things to come. He started the season opener at No. 5 Tennessee, setting the stage for a record-setting performance in 1997. He broke Hanspards school freshman rushing record with 894 yards on 201 carries and earned second-team freshman All-America honors from The Sporting News. Among his three games of more than 100 yards last season, Williams outgained Texas Ricky Williams 131 yards to 80 in Techs win in Austin last November. This year, with all the media attention surrounding the comparison between him and the other Ricky Williams, most young players would find it hard to concentrate on team goals. But, Williams realizes that all his success is dependent on the 10 other guys on the field. Whatever attention I get goes back to the team, Williams said. If it werent for them, there would be no media attention because nobody would have ever heard of me. Thanks to a fast start by the Duncanville sophomore, people all over the country know about Texas Techs Ricky Williams. He came out of the blocks fast with a career night of 251 yards on 41 carries in the opening contest against Texas-El Paso. A week later on the wet Texas Stadium turf, Williams churned out 170 yards on 28 carries against North Texas. In the wild-and-wacky win over Fresno State, Williams broke free for 72 yards on the first offensive play. He finished with 244 yards on 42 carries and two more touchdowns, pushing his total to six for the season. Williams was honored as the Big 12 Conference Offensive Player of the Week for his performance. Last week at Iowa State, he gained 105 hard-earned yards on 29 carries and scored two more thouchdowns. Ricky continues to amaze me, Tech offensive coordinator Rick Dykes said. He is all business on the field and has really worked hard to be a great running back. He runs north-south and is tough. He is the toughest young player I have been around. Tough may not be strong enough when describing Williams durability. Through four games, Williams has averaged 35 carries per game and says that if needed, he can go more. Without a doubt, Williams said. If Coach needs me to go 50 or 60 carries, I will do that for my team. Say what? Did you say 60? Carries? In a major Division I college football game? After carrying the ball more than 40 times, one would think that the next two days would be spent recuperating in the training room. Not hardly. My Dad tells me not to go to the training room because it is bad luck. Besides, I dont like ice, it is too cold, Williams said. I think the best way to get over a game is to go to church. The Lord has really blessed me. Williams pays attention to what Dad has to say and also listens to that superstitious voice inside him. Before each game, Williams escapes to the meeting room where he watches game film and NFL highlights of the games great rushers. He gets his inspiration from watching great plays made by some of his biggest heroes. Besides, if he didnt watch the film, he would be testing fate and he is not about to take that chance. This year, his superstitious nature led him to change his number from 35 to two (his old high school number), a move he claimed made him feel more at home. When I wear number two, I feel like I am at home, Williams said. I had a lot of success with 2 back in high school. It just feels good.