Ricky Williams planned to change name, join Raiders

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We were overdue for another bizarre, strangely endearing Ricky Williams story, weren't we? Buckle up.

Back in September 2004, Williams had retired from football at 27 years old and found himself stranded at an airport in Thailand, unable to get to a benefit concert being held at the Great Wall of China.

(You wanted weird? You got your weird!)

From a longform profile on Williams by Greg Bishop in the latest issue of Sports Illustrated:

He planned to fly instead to the Himalayas, where he would hang for six months with a friend from Australia who went by the name Mystic Steve. But while he was waiting for a ride to Chiang Mai airport, Williams spied a game between the Raiders and the Buccaneers on the TV in his hostel. Right there he decided he would come back. He needed the money anyway. He called (his wife) Kristin and said, "I'm coming home."

The problem, well, one of many problems for Williams at the time was that his reputation as a football player was in ruins after he walked out of his contract with the Dolphins and became known as the most famous pothead in the history of American professional sports.

Williams knew he needed a fresh start, so he decided to change his name to Rio Don, switch his jersey number from 34 to 21 and sign with the same Raiders team he admired in the airport.

Williams was so taken by his idea of reinvention that he signed a batch of footballs for his agent, "RIO DON, #21".

"Luckily," Williams said, "that idea didn't stick."

Williams didn't find a job in 2004, but he did eventually get back into the NFL. He played six more seasons, in fact, which might be the most remarkable feat in a fascinating life. Well, besides the fact that he has a buddy named Mystic Steve.

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