MIAMI - OCTOBER 12: Running back Ricky Williams #34 of the Miami Dolphins prior to taking on the New York Jets at Land Shark Stadium on October 12, 2009 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Even just watching the 2 minute, 39-second trailer for ESPN's film "Run Ricky Run," which makes its cable debut Tuesday night, the mind boggles: how in the world did Ricky Williams bear up under the intense scrutiny, harsh criticism, and burdensome expectations that smothered most of his controversial football career?
"More marijuana" is the short answer, or at least it was for a while.
But the film doesn't just follow Williams in his search for answers outside football and into a drug-free second coming, it reveals that the Dolphins running back's life is more complicated and affected than even previousy thought -- and more than anyone's should have to be: Ricky Williams was sexually abused by his own father.
In 1983, six-year-old Ricky told his mother that Errick Williams, Sr., had been forcing him to take nude photos of his father with a Polaroid camera. Her now-former husband, to whom she hasn't spoken in decades, was arrested and charged with "sexually annoying" a child.
The elder Williams agreed to be interviewed about the subject on camera, and never actually denies that he abused his son.
"I'm not a saint, I haven't always been a saint. The past is the past and I like leaving the past behind me," Williams, Sr. says in the film, according to Fanhouse. "A picture taken? I don't recall."
Ricky's mother, however, says her son recalls -- and that anger toward his father, who she says is now a registered sex offender, has deeply affected his life.
"When [Ricky] grew up," she said, "he wanted to be a policeman so he could shoot his father and get away with it because a policeman can shoot you and not get in trouble."
Oof. Having been abused won't make Williams' choices go down easier with affronted talking heads or abandoned front office execs or concerned tut-tutters in Bible Belt sewing circles. But his struggle was always much more three-dimensional than "Ricky Williams chose marijuana over football," as diagnoses of crippling social anxiety and bipolar disorders would later show, and the film's revelations just might prove that Ricky Williams' real story is that he's been able to overcome so much.