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Ricky Williams: Cannabis Connoisseur and the NFL’s Most Enigmatic Player

Published on July 13, 2016 · Last updated July 28, 2020

Ricky Williams went from being one of the most feared and dominating running backs in college football history to, during his 12-year pro career, one of the most controversial and least understood players in NFL history. In the past year he’s become one of the most visible leaders of the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition, a group of former NFL players working to reform the league’s outdated, draconian cannabis policy and consider the physical benefits of medical marijuana for athletes.

Williams was fairly outspoken cannabis consumer during his playing days, and it cost him. He tested positive for cannabis multiple times and received several suspensions. His relationship with pro football was always an uneasy one. After announcing his early retirement leading up to the 2004 season, he then came back the following year — only to get suspended for the entire 2006 season after failing his fourth drug test. 

The enigmatic player, and his relationship with cannabis, take center stage once again this week, when SI Films premieres the documentary Ricky Williams Takes the High Road. The film will debut today alongside and a longform journalism feature written by Greg Bishop. 

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Williams’ involvement with "weed issues" goes beyond the Gridiron Coalition. He’s a joint partner in the world’s first cannabis gym, Power Plant Fitness, which is scheduled to open in San Francisco this fall. He’s also back in Austin, finishing up his college degree. Afterward he plans to pursue a doctorate in psychology

Here’s a timeline of Ricky Williams’ wild journey, from one of the all-time greats at the University of Texas, to a controversial NFL star, to owner of the first cannabis gym and a leading figure in the marijuana bodybuilding scene:

Ricky Williams Marijuana and NFL Timeline Infographic

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Gage Peake
Gage Peake
Gage Peake is a former staff writer for Leafly, where he specialized in data journalism, sports, and breaking news coverage. He's a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Journalism and Mass Communications.
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