SAN DIEGO – May is Mental Health Awareness Month. For Patrick Henry High School alum and Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams, it’s a time he reflects on his own personal growth.

The former NFL running back has long struggled with social anxieties, carving his own path through cannabis to heal his body and mind. Williams is known by many as one of the fiercest running backs from the NFL in the last century, but his fame did not come without controversy.

Some may remember Williams for his two NFL suspensions that stemmed from violating the league’s strict marijuana policy at the time.

“I look at the alternative and yeah, there’s a good chance if I wouldn’t have gone down this path I might be in the Hall of Fame, but so what?” Williams said. “I also thought in my imagination that if I’d gone down that path, my physical and mental health wouldn’t be what it is today. I wouldn’t have the energy to preach my new message from the mountain tops.”

Williams says he thought he would be the “next Tony Gwynn.”

“I remember being 7 years old listening to the Padres on the radio. I was a huge baseball fan,” he said.  

Instead of professionally pursuing America’s pastime, the 11-year NFL veteran finished his career with more than 10,000 rushing yards and 74 touchdowns.

When asked about his thoughts on the current policies across all major leagues, in regards to allowing cannabis to be used, he responded by saying:

“You got to look at the history, the war on drugs really intensified in the ’80s, and just like in any war, there are casualties but that also requires a time for healing. So I think in the leagues, the last 20 years they have been punishing people pretty harshly for using and now I think it’s pretty difficult to just all of a sudden say they’re not going to do that anymore. They’ve softened their punishments and testing requirements so it’s moving in that direction.”

The 1998 Heisman trophy winner is now pursuing a new venture in retirement: Highsman, a cannabis lifestyle brand that launched in October 2021.

“It’s about elevating the conversation because my personal experience with cannabis was very different than what people told me,” Williams said. “My experience is one that actually helped me and improved the quality of my life rather than ruin it like I was originally told.”

Williams adds that he visits San Diego regularly and has never been happier.