Like most of us, DeAngelo Williams had a favorite athlete as a kid.
Unlike most of us, Williams was able to meet that athlete as an adult after becoming a great athlete himself.
The Ricky Williams' "A Football Life" episode on NFL Network included a scene where both Ricky and DeAngelo Williams embraced following a game between the Panthers and Saints. It was there where the younger Williams could finally meet his childhood idle.
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"Hey, Rick. I looked up to you when I was in high school, man. That's the reason why I wear 34," DeAngelo said to the 1998 Heisman Trophy winner at Texas. Ricky Williams, whose career resume included over 10,000 career rushing yards along with being the NFL rushing champion in 2002, reciprocated DeAngelo Williams' praise.
"Keep working, man. I love watching you," Ricky Williams said to his one-time childhood fan.
Like Ricky, DeAngelo has enjoyed a long sustained run of success in the NFL. They each earned their first Pro Bowl berths in their fourth seasons in the NFL and each averaged 4.8 yards per carry that season. In 2009, Ricky rushed for four more yards than DeAngelo in the only season where both Ricky and DeAngelo ran for over 1,000 yards in the same season. Like Ricky, DeAngelo is a small but powerful back that also has the speed to close out big runs. He also has a deadly cutback that he has possible patterned from his one-time idol.
The one thing DeAngelo hopes to emulate from the "other" No.34 is the strong season Ricky Williams had at 32-years-old. Ricky enjoyed one of his best seasons at 32, rushing for 1,121 yards and 11 touchdowns while averaging 4.7 yards per carry. DeAngelo, who turned 32 this past April, will hope to have a similar impact with the Steelers this fall.
A featured back for most of his career, Ricky Williams spent his final season backing up Baltimore's Ray Rice. Williams still made his presence felt, averaging 4.1 yards on 108 carries and helping the Ravens reach the AFC Championship Game. This season, DeAngelo will try to do the same while playing alongside Le'Veon Bell. But unlike Ricky Williams, DeAngelo will be asked to do more, and with 1,000 less career carries that Ricky, DeAngelo should have fresh legs that will help him carry some of the workload this season and beyond.
One thing that eluded Ricky Williams was a Super Bowl title, as Williams retired from the Ravens a year before Baltimore won the Super Bowl in 2012. Hopefully, this can be where DeAngelo separates himself from his childhood hero, while helping bring back another Vince Lombardi Trophy to the Steel City.
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