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Kids Today.
Posted Wednesday, July 28, 2004

by Bill Hogan


When I was a small boy, I grew up dreaming about being a football star. I'd sit in church on Sunday morning thinking about going from the pew to the playing field and tossing the game-winning touchdown pass after scrambling around the backfield avoiding would-be tacklers.

I ran through a million different scenarios in my mind's eye and each play became more spectacular. I knew, at eight years old, that it was only a matter of time before I'd be playing in front of a packed stadium, on national television, performing as brilliantly as I did at the deepest levels of my boyhood imagination.


Fame, fortune and gridiron glory awaited me. I watched Bart Starr and Fran Tarkenton perform the heroics for which I would some day be cheered. That would be me, not Terry Bradshaw, the adoring fans embraced.

After a long and storied career, I'd retire in the lap of luxury, play golf every day and await the inevitable call from the Hall of Fame selection committee. C'mon, guys, you know the dream I'm talking about.

However, being a small boy poses a big problem when one also becomes a small teenager. Doug Flutie hadn't yet made a name for himself and I held out little hope that I'd make it as a NFL quarterback. So I eventually put aside my fantasies and concentrated on other sports and other endeavors. I had the heart and the desire, I didn't have the tools.

There's no question that 1998 Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams has the tools to play running back in the NFL. And there's no question that he does not possess the heart or desire to compete anymore. So he walked away, voluntarily, from the fame, fortune and gridiron glory that I spent my childhood dreaming about.

He's now "free" to pursue all that life has to offer a very rich man; to chase his real dreams; to live his life on his own terms. How dare he. Williams gave up what millions of aspiring, young, future football stars would cut off their dreadlocks to attain.

Who walks away from a successful – not to mention lucrative – playing career in his prime? What a "waste of talent." What more is there to life than playing in the National Football League? Sure, for those of us to whom professional football was never really an option, there has to be more to life. But Ricky was living our childhood dreams.

We watched him run on Sundays like few people can run. He was a valuable member of our Fantasy Football team. Now he's taken his size, speed, strength and quickness to Asia and we're left here to ponder what might have been had we been a little bigger, a little faster, a little more talented.

It seems pretty selfish for somebody who has it all to want more out of life. To be left alone to pursue other interests – like there really are any other relevant interests other than playing professional football.

Ricky has his whole life ahead of him. He can sail around the world or climb Mount Everest when his playing days are over. There will be plenty of time for other activities after he's become too old to be of any use to the Dolphins – or any other NFL team. Even sooner if he happens to blow out a knee or break his neck.

Granted, it would be difficult to scale a mountain or sail a boat with a debilitating injury, but really, where are his priorities. At worst, he'll have years of glorious Hall of Fame memories to look back upon even if he can't get around very well.

Does he plan on starting a second career? The world is filled with great writers and talented artists. There is a noble and worthy purpose to becoming a doctor or a teacher, but not when you have a gift that enables you to run for 1,000 yards and the ability to break a game wide open each time you touch the football.

Think of the millions of young men, Ricky, who must become writers and artists, doctors and teachers simply because they can't break a tackle, catch a ball or throw a sixty yard pass.

Put your dreams on hold, get back into camp and do what you were born to do. Run with a football. If not for yourself, do it for the less fortunate, Ricky.


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