The football life of former NFL running back Ricky Williams, who played the final season of his career in Baltimore, has been an adventure. The latest stop on his journey is China, where he is part of the coaching staff that is training a group of Chinese university students for an international football tournament in May.
The Chinese will be playing their first international tournament in American football -- which they call “olive ball” in their language -- in the first World University Championship in American Football, which will be held in Sweden. The United States, Mexico, Finland, Sweden and Finland will also be competing.
As USA Today’s Tom Pelissero writes in this story on Williams and former NFL tight end Byron Chamberlain coaching China, American football has only been on China’s radar for a few years. So the group of 120 university students who are competing to make the team had no idea who Williams was. As Pelissero put it, “they Googled him before he arrived in Shanghai and still didn't quite grasp his resume.”
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Williams, of course, was a Heisman Trophy-winning running back at the University of Texas. He was twice banned from the NFL for positive drug tests. The first prompted him to retire for a season and the second exiled him to the Canadian Football League. But he still rushed for 10,009 career yards in the NFL, the final 444 coming with the Ravens in 2011.
Williams became an assistant football coach at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas, last summer.
Williams will serve as the defensive coordinator for the Chinese team (Chamberlain will coordinate the offense). China faces long odds in the tournament, but Williams is hopeful that the team will at least be competitive.
"My expectation is when we're out there, we look like a football team,” the 36-year-old told USA Today.