By: Jason Sarney
It is the time of day in most parts of the world that you probably already got the phenomenal hour of The Fish Tank episode with Ricky Williams in to start your Tuesday. In a show full of outstanding quotes by the former Miami running back, as well as the Triple-Treat of Tank hosts Seth Levit, O.J. McDuffie and Sean “DJ Prec” Todd, one aspect of the episode stood out to me.
The Birth of the Wildcat.
The Fish Tank is the home for stories and origins of heroes of the Orange and Aqua and the battles and tales they tell the guys on their outstanding podcast. As if I were James Earl Jones in “Field of Dreams,” during his epic cinematic speech – when listening to this show, I sometimes feel like I have been dipped into magic waters while hearing the first-hand accounts of the memories I will cherish for a lifetime.
One of the greatest seasons in its entirety in my Findom was the 2008 year, which for all intents and purposes is dubbed forever, “The Wildcat Season.” Ricky shared the inception story from his perspective, much like Wildcat-mate and still close-friend Ronnie Brown shared in his dip into the Tank last season.
Hearing Ricky tell the story, who in fact was the “Wildcat” in the revolutionary offensive set, was as blissful was watching its birth. An offensive set that defined a team and a season which led to a division title. After starting the 2008 season 0-2, the outlook was bleak for a Miami team coming off a 1-15 season, a coaching change, and the loss of Jason Taylor to the hated Jets. Then came a road game to Foxborough on September 21st against the Patriots.
We will get back to that in a moment.
Rewinding to the 2008 training camp, this is where the idea of this offense was hatched by a new Miami coach within new head coach Tony Sporano’s staff, named David Lee. As Ronnie Brown told us, to refresh or even introduce some to the back story, Lee was part of the University of Arkansas coaching staff that had Wildcat success with running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones.
Lee, who became the Dolphins quarterbacks’ coach in 2008, installed the set to his offense and the veteran in Ricky Williams told the Tank, “what is this high school sh*t?” Williams, who is a consummate student of the game as well as practice player, and armed with a photographic memory, was ready to pay attention after coach Lee said, “Ricky, you’re the Wildcat.”
It was after those words, as Williams said, “I guess I better pay attention,” and as Levit told us all, “in 2008, the Wildcat was born.” Ricky will continue to say that the delivery date of this new package was ready at any moment, as the 2008 Dolphins would exclusively “walk-thru” their Wildcat sets prior to their games. “All we did was Wildcat...everyday.” As fans of this franchise knows, practice makes perfect.
In the conclusion of this portion of the Tank episode, Ricky describes the blissful chaos he noticed across the sidelines as the New England team was as shocked as they have ever been when the Wildcat officially made its debut.
Ricky, ever the artist, paints a pretty picture of that glorious Sunday afternoon. “The beautiful thing about that, is that the Patriots, you know, they are always prepared. To see them running into each other and being unprepared and yelling at each other on the sidelines…it was beautiful.” No wonder Ricky goes by the moniker of @Rickthelaureate on Twitter.
A warrior poet.
That game against New England saw Miami rush for a team total of 216 yards and four touchdowns. Ricky “The Wildcat” Williams was the teams 2nd leading rusher that day with 98 yards, as we all know that Ronnie Brown put in a performance for the ages with 113 yards, 4 touchdowns on the ground, as well as the “Southpaw Special” of a touchdown pass to tight end Anthony Fasano.
Miami won the game 38-13 for the first victory of the season, and that game started a 6-2 stretch for the team, heading to a 11-3 mark following the opening two defeats of the year, as newly acquired quarterback Chad Pennington settled into his new colors and offense.
On the year, the Wildcat was an NFL sensation, which was often duplicated in attempts but never replicated in efficiency. “So much of that offense was in one room,” said Williams, and made sure to credit teammates Patrick Cobb and Lousaka Polite for the full season of Wildcat success. As for what the Wildcat did for Ricky 3.0, he tells us all, “I think it revitalized my career.”
Ricky ran for 659 yards and a total of five scores in 2008 as the compliment to Ronnie Brown’s 916 yards and 13 rushing scores. In 2009, Ricky was back to the 1,000-yard club as he finished that campaign with 1,121 rushing yards, 35 receptions for 264 yards with 13 total touchdowns. This was all after his retirement year in 2004, suspension year in 2006 for the league substance-abuse policy violation, and his season ending 2007 injury, which jokingly was a blessing in disguise for Williams.
For me, 2008 was a special year in football as well as family as that was the year I got married in November. I knew I had the right girl when the Sunday of our Honeymoon in Aruba, there was a Dolphin Game already on at the bar near the beach waiting for me during an important mid-season battle. She planned it with the bartender.
Miami beat the Seahawks 21-19 that Sunday, and Ricky ran for 105 yards on just 12 carries and a score. What a great day, and I was 1-0 as a married Fin fan. Miami would rattle off six wins out of the following seven games to finish the regular season, which included a Week 17 finale in my literal backyard at the time in New Jersey against the Jets for a win-and-in situation to clinch the division.
Living minutes from the stadium then, my younger Brother and I were not only in attendance, but up close and personal to witness Ricky, Ronnie and company win the only division title Miami has seen this century. To say the least, 2008 was one of the best years of my life.
Listening to The Fish Tank, and the Wildcat story directly from the man himself, was magical as indicated earlier. Give this a listen, as this sub-plot of Ricky Williams’ story, is almost like a Spin-off television show from an already established universe. That universe is the World of Ricky, and what a world it is to be a small part of, as we all are. We rooted for the player then, as much as we root for the person now.
When he was running up the middle through the gaps, or in motion before a sweep we thought, “Run, Ricky, Run.” And now, with all the good he is doing and all the positivity he brings the mindset is the same, but a tad different in wording.
Go, Ricky, Go! And never stop being Ricky Williams.
You can follow Jason on Twitter @OrangeAquaman
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