Sports Cannabis Interviews

Ricky Williams; Making a Play for The Highsman

"The end result is to normalize it, but I think the plan is bigger than “normal”. Greatness isn't normal—it's something that's unique and special, even if it's just the message. To me I keep coming back to messages like the value of feeling good and sparking greatness."

Photographs Courtesy of : The Highsman | Creative Contributor : Matthew Nielsen

Cannabis athlete, NFL legend, thought leader and entrepreneur Ricky Williams has launched Highsman, a unique premium cannabis lifestyle brand focused on empowering professionals, athletes and sports enthusiasts.

Ricky Williams played college football for the Texas Longhorns, receiving All-American honors twice as well as winning the Heisman Trophy in 1998 before taking his talents to the NFL.  Williams was drafted in 1999, in the first round, fifth overall to the New Orlean Saints before being traded to the Miami Dolphins in 2002.  Ricky led the league in rushing, earned first team All-Pro honors and a Pro Bowl selection in 2002.

Ricky Williams ultimately discovered the healing properties of Cannabis after retiring, partnering in the plant to help manage pain, injuries and the stresses of being an elite professional athlete.  Eager to learn more, Ricky Williams traveled to the Himalayas in pursuit of a deeper understanding of the plant and its healing properties.  After years of research and development, Ricky has officially announced the rollout of Highsman.  With an opportunity to create change and affect a larger community, they’ve focused on providing premium quality cannabis, accessories and apparel.

Ricky joined Jay Morzaria of Sports Cannabis to chat about football, cannabis and all things Highsman.

Jay Morzaria :

It’s great to connect with you, before we take a deep dive into cannabis and The Highsman, talk to us about football. What was it about football that ultimately made you want to make a career out of it?

Ricky Williams :

I started playing football when I was in the seventh grade, but as far as I can remember I was always really fast and a gifted athlete. I went to an elementary school that was a magnet program for sports. We had an hour of physical education every single day from first grade until sixth grade, so I got a lot of practice and I was always the fastest kid. By the time I was in middle school, I got the reputation of being “the jock” or “the athlete.” Then I got “Most Athletic” in high school. I really wanted to be a baseball player and was drafted to play minor league baseball while playing in college, but ultimately I was better at football. I was skilled enough to do it after college, and since it was all on me, I just kept going.

JM :

There’s a saying, “You can play Injured, but you can’t play hurt”. As a running back, what was that experience like and when were you introduced to Cannabis for recovery and relief?

Ricky Williams :

I wasn’t introduced to cannabis for recovery and relief until after I retired. Back in the 2000’s, no one was talking about it in that way. Maybe some hippies in California were talking about medicinal marijuana, but that conversation didn’t really exist. I first started using cannabis simply because it felt good.

JM :

What was your ah ha moment? and, where do you find Cannabis helps you the most? 

Ricky Williams :

“I felt better when I smoked and that’s why I kept using it. We can add fancy phrases like recovery and relief, but really it just made me feel good. I value feeling good. I noticed when I felt good, I slept better, I was happier to go to work the next morning and I tended to perform better. It’s an appreciation for feeling good. I would venture to say that’s true for most people. I think the issue is that in most situations there has to be a medical term associated with cannabis and that feeling good isn’t enough of a reason.

JM :

You’ve used your platform to foster a larger conversation, one of advocacy, education and a push to break the stigma. What made you want to use your platform to normalize the plant?

Ricky Williams :

The end result is to normalize it, but I think the plan is bigger than “normal”. Greatness isn’t normal—it’s something that’s unique and special, even if it’s just the message. To me I keep coming back to messages like the value of feeling good and sparking greatness. For so long I was used to feeling bad and felt guilty about feeling good. Then one day I asked myself: why am I feeling bad about this? So I stopped. I’m really an advocate for happiness and an advocate for feeling good and cannabis is one of those things. I’m also an advocate for meditation, for being nice to people, and for being a good person, because those things will make you feel good too.

JM :

Have you ever faced any negative repercussions for your use of Cannabis?

Ricky Williams :

The idea of negative and positive it’s relative. Something that seems negative in the short term might just mean we can’t see the positives on the horizon. If something is illegal and you do it, there’s a lot of negative consequences, even if it’s just paranoia or fear of getting caught or fear of the consequences of getting caught. Anytime we do something that’s against the rules, it creates stress. I’ve been able to shift the obstacles I faced early on into positive experiences. It’s these experiences that have helped me mature as a person and channel them into something I am passionate about. I’m able to advocate and talk openly about cannabis through my new company Highsman. Though Highsman has taken advantage of my reputation, it has also taken advantage of the lessons I’ve learned from those experiences.

JM :

What do you believe the biggest misconception of Cannabis is?

Ricky Williams :

That it is or ever was the problem. When things go wrong people blame it on cannabis, and they’re not looking at the actual people. Like anything, cannabis can be used for good or for harm, and that’s another reason why launching Highsman is so important, because the biggest issue is lack of education. I’m calling for education on the positive uses of cannabis. Let’s not just normalize it, but actually think how can we use it to improve the quality of our lives.



JM :

Today you’re focused on the Cannabis industry and have created a unique offering for athletes and the cannabis community. Talk to us about Highsman— and who are you targeting?

Ricky Williams :

Highsman isn’t only for athletes. It’s for people who appreciate the mindset of athletes. It leads us on this path to higher and higher levels of fulfillment and achievement. That attitude can be applied to parenting. It can be applied to any job you do. It’s what we do in sports. We go out there and we do our best. We go back to the film room, we watch, we see how we can do it better, and then we go out and we do it better. That’s the environment that I’ve grown up in, and that’s the environment that I use cannabis in. How can I keep getting better? How can I better prepare myself for the challenges that are coming up in this weekend’s game? The mindset of an athlete is to prepare ourselves for the challenges we are faced with, and that’s the attitude I take on with life.

JM :

What is the ultimate mission and vision of Highsman and what can we expect for 2022?

Ricky Williams :

The bigger mission is achieving your highest potential, and becoming the best version of you. Right now cannabis is cool and people are interested in it, but they’re missing the part of the story of how it can help make us great and help us get the most out of life. That’s the ultimate mission because that’s what I’m all about. This is the trajectory I’ve been on my whole life. At first I thought I had to stay away from cannabis and that’s what I did, but then I realized it’s actually much easier if I’m using it. I found a way for it to help support me on my journey, and everyone is getting into it, so why not share my story with them? The Highsman team and I are working on events this year- with a focus on bringing people together to help them realize their greatness. We’re building field day type events with fun athletic challenges, as well as an educational series. Everything we are doing is about building community.

JM :

Recently the NFL Pledged 1 Million to two teams from the University of San Diego and the University of Regina in Canada, that were selected by the NFL and the NFL Players Association’s Joint Pain Management Committee to investigate the effects of cannabinoids on pain management and neuroprotection from concussion in elite football players. Over the 2021 season, the NFL made approximately $9.8 Billion in revenue with 32 teams receiving a record breaking $309 million each. Despite making strides, the one question that lingers for the cannabis community; Is this Enough?

Ricky Williams :

In my opinion, the NFL’s greatest asset is not the money, it’s the power they hold over public opinion. The fact that the NFL is investing any money gives us the opportunity to have a conversation about the positive things that the NFL is doing for the players, especially relative to cannabis. Whether it’s a million or 10 million, the fact that they’re doing something is a step in the right direction. The NFL is a huge corporation now. It’s not like they can just make these decisions fast and get rid of these regulations. They’ve been in place for decades and It takes time. I think they’re just checking the boxes. After they’ve punished and ruined so many people’s lives, they need to throw some money at experts and scientists so that they can tell us that it’s okay.

JM :

With sporting leagues shifting policy, do you think we have done enough?

Ricky Williams :

It’s just the beginning. What’s motivated the sports leagues to open their minds have been the fans and the players and people speaking up and sharing their truth. The more people that are willing to tell the truth, the faster we’re going to see these things change.

JM :

With an opportunity to change the dialogue and normalize the conversation, it’s also important to focus on the social injustices and equity issues that still need to be tackled. Where do you believe the focus should be for 2022?

Ricky Williams :

I think we have to get some clarity on the situation, because so much of the conversation is being driven by the industry. We need to put pressure on politicians to take a real stand.

JM :

Looking forward, how do we empower the next generation of cannabis athlete entrepreneurs?

Ricky Williams :

The first thing is to unburden them from having to deal with the stigma. Next, we need to educate them, because our miseducation sets us up at a disadvantage. With all the research we are doing and the education we are gaining, we can empower the younger generation. They’re going to have a headstart and be able to figure out things that we couldn’t, because we started so late with such a negative attitude about cannabis.

JM :

 For athletes following your lead, looking to get into the industry, what advice can you offer them?

Ricky Williams :

It takes a certain kind of intelligence to recognize a business opportunity. It takes another kind of intelligence to recognize the larger opportunity and give back, but the only place that second kind of intelligence comes from is our own experiences. My advice is to not be in such a hurry to be an entrepreneur; be in a hurry to live, because through living, you’re going to notice where things can be improved and having that passion can help navigate all the ups and downs of startup life. Entrepreneurship is the ability to utilize both of those skills, to find a way to build a business and generate revenue, but for the purpose of getting a larger idea or movement or mission out into the world.

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