I miss Ricky Williams already. You talk about a guy who should leave his brain to medical science when he's gone. This guy's brain would keep researchers busy for 50 years.
Williams, the backup Ravens running back who retired Tuesday after 12 seasons, was tough, funny, smart, opinionated and one of the great characters to ever play in the NFL.
True to his offbeat nature, Williams didn't trot out the old cliche about retiring just to spend more time with his family.
No, every ballplayer from Michael Jordan to Curt Schilling to Barry Bonds has used that one. And most of them end up working so hard at something else that they never see their families anyway.
(Ballplayers use it so much The Onion once did a hysterical piece titled: "Peewee Football Player Retires to Spend More Time With His Mom And Dad."
It quoted Jacob Banks, 10, a running back and third-string safety for the fictional Ferndale Jets, as saying at his farewell news conference: "As much as I like talking to my friends out on the field and eating the pizza after Friday practices, I don't want to be the kind of kid who grows up never knowing his parents.")
But Williams, 34, said he was retiring because he wanted to do other things with his life.
He wanted to travel the world. He wanted to go back to school, maybe to become a psychiatrist. (Oh, I'd pay big bucks to sit in on one of those sessions. I'd bet those could get deep.)
He also wanted to do more work with his foundation, which provides tutorial services, public-speaking programs and sports camps in poor communities. With all he's been through, Williams is a soft touch for helping anyone who's down and out.
And he left the door open to the possibility of un-retiring if the right offer came along.
"The thing I've learned about myself," he told a South Florida radio station of a possible return to the league, "is who the hell knows?"
Right, who the hell knows? That's been Williams' mantra for years. But it would take a monster case of boredom and a Wells Fargo truck full of cash to bring him back, which is a pity to anyone in my business who ever interviewed him.
When he first came to town last year, some of the Ravens didn't know what to make of Ricky Williams.
They knew he had a big rep: Heisman Trophy winner at Texas; a terrific running back with the New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins when his head was on straight; the NFL rushing leader with the Dolphins in 2002; and a player with almost 10,000 rushing yards on his resume.
But there was all the other stuff, too: the failed drugs tests; the suspension from the NFL for pot smoking; his first retirement from the league at age 27; and the new-age vibe he exuded with his Hindu religion, holistic medicine practices, vegan diet and yoga-instructor credentials.
There was also his image as a loner, an image that came about mainly because of the clinical depression and social-anxiety disorder that dogged him for years.
Williams showed up in Baltimore last year looking fit and clear-eyed and saying all the right things about leaving the past behind and wanting to help the Ravens win a Super Bowl.
But some Ravens looked at his two-year, $2.5 million contract and asked themselves: Was he still a fast, gifted, hard-nosed runner that could help this team?
Or was he a burned-out weirdo with an aching body hanging on for a few more paychecks?
But the questions ended after the first couple of practices, when it became clear Williams was still a powerful running back who could back up Ray Rice and mentor the younger player at the same time.
No wonder Rice talked up Williams all season long to anyone who would listen.
"I was a big fan of Ricky before we were teammates, but being around him this year is the best thing that happened to me in my NFL career," he said in a statement Tuesday. "As a young player, you need to be around a guy who knows what he's doing, and Ricky was tremendous to learn from."
As for what the Ravens will do to replace Ricky Williams, I don't think they're worried about that.
Anthony Allen and Matt Lawrence, the next two running backs on the depth chart, probably aren't the answer. But whether it's through the draft or free agency or a trade, they'll find someone.
You can always find capable backup running backs in the NFL.
But you probably won't find another Ricky Williams.
Listen to Kevin Cowherd at 7:20 a.m. Tuesdays on 105.7 The Fan's "The Norris and Davis Show."