As a running back for the Texas Longhorns, Ricky Williams won the Heisman Trophy. Quick and strong and built like a bullet, Williams led the NFL in rushing in 2002 and followed his coach’s instructions. A former NFL all-star, Williams said he wanted to fit in, until fitting in didn’t work for him any more.
“We’re all looking for meaning and I looked at fame, women and cars before I ultimately found my meaning in cannabis,” Williams says, adding that, between his suspensions and bad press from cannabis, he probably lost between $50 and $100-million-dollars for his beliefs that cannabis should be legal and that athletes should be allowed to medicate with weed the same way they’ve been medicated themselves with alcohol or pharmaceuticals since the beginning of pro sports.
“I look around at Western culture and see we don’t have elders," Williams continues, "someone people can look up to and say, ‘I want to be like that person.’ As I get older, I want people to know I live life in an authentic way and I want to set an example for the next generation by honouring my path.”
Williams’s path—including a stint with the Argos in the CFL—has led to him today as the founder of Highsman, a company based in Northern California, where he lives. Williams, who also works with the cannabis data company Hoodie Analytics, says the whole culture of college and professional sports needs to change.
“The attitude of a warrior is that we don’t think about pain or else wear it as a badge, but that can be toxic,” Williams says. “Are you doing something to heal? I did intense damage to my body, but today, so much of my work is in recovery. Everything I do today is about trying to heal.”
Williams didn’t even smoke weed until he was in college. He said it was after a rough patch—a few bad games, his ex seeing his quarterback—that he took his roommate up on his offer to share the bong.
“My mind was in a really dark place. I was trying to break a bunch of records and just honestly felt like crap, but when I took a couple of hits, it was the first time in two weeks I wasn’t obsessing about my poor performance and I let it all go and my mind expanded,” Williams says. “The next day I started busting ass and had back to back 300-yard games, and that subverts certain lazy stereotypes, but the bigger issue is that if you don’t live a meaningful life, it’s really hard to be successful. You need to connect, on the inside, with what lights you up.”