Ricky Williams’ Latest Passion Project was Written in the Stars

From the time he was a child growing up in Southern California, to his time in Austin, his years in the NFL, and beyond, Ricky Williams has squeezed every bit of experience, knowledge, and information out of whatever piques his interest. Whether it’s football, yoga, travel, meditation, or the therapeutic benefits of cannabis, once Williams, BS ’16, finds something, he dives in headfirst. 

That quality is what led him to first discover the art of evolutionary astrology—using a person’s birth chart to guide their astrological readings—a method Williams has been studying since 2015. He recently launched a new podcast titled Curious Questions with Ricky Williams, an interview series rooted in his passion for and study of astrology. 

The podcast is broken into two segments. In the first, Williams reads his subject’s astrological chart, recognizing and addressing what elements of a chart arouse his interest most, while explaining astrological concepts to listeners in a jargon-free, accessible way. 

Then, armed with the insight gleaned from his reading, he begins the interview. Chatting with guests like Earl Campbell, BS ’79, Life Member, Distinguished Alumnus, (alongside whom Williams was honored with the renaming of the field at Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium last fall), former NFL players Arian Foster and Eben Britton, sports super-agent Leigh Steinberg, cannabis-rights activist Steve DeAngelo, and noted yogi and author Guru Jagat, Williams forgoes abstract astrological conversaions. 

In a recent episode with the longtime NFL running back Foster, Williams explores the notions of inquisitiveness and compassion, and the uneasy balance between fame and personality. But as the conversation winds toward Williams’ astrological reading, Foster admits his skepticism, saying that he “remains unconvinced that astrology is a pathway to truth.” 

Williams laughs, assuring him that conversations with skeptics are often the ones he enjoys most. 

Williams’ interest in alternative healing methods began during his sophomore season at UT, when, to assuage the pain cause by shin splints, he was taking upward of eight Advil pills each day just to make it onto the practice field. 

“I thought it was fine,” he says from his home in Venice, California. “They were just Advil.” 

Soon after, he was diagnosed with the early stages of a stomach ulcer, courtesy of his overuse of the medicine. But it wasn’t until Williams’ first retirement, when he unexpectedly stepped away from professional football in 2004, that he began to undertake a more holistic approach to his health and well-being. 

“I was 27 but my body felt like it was 50,” he says. 

He spent his year away from the sport—the first since he was a child—practicing yoga, transitioning to a vegetarian diet, and meditating. The time away from the violence of football allowed his body to heal, while his new holistic practices allowed him to focus on his emotional and spiritual wellness. It was a side of himself he had recognized early in life but hadn’t yet been able to embrace. 

“What was difficult and painful was putting that more abstract, philosophical side of myself on hold to be a football player,” Williams says, “to make myself fit into that world.” 

 It was a version of Williams that didn’t align with what the wider world envisioned for the hard-nosed running back. That disconnect was on full display upon his early retirement from professional football, when many pundits, armchair and professional alike, chided Williams for “retiring to smoke weed.” 

Astrology was the bridge that linked his formerly disparate selves together. While at a yoga retreat in Northern California during his first retirement, a yogi named Swami Sita approached Williams and asked about “the location of his Mars,” the planet which, according to astrologers, helps determine a person’s relationship to competition, passion, anger, and assertion. Williams had no clue what she meant. 

What followed was a two-and-a-half-hour conversation that Williams says altered the course of his life. 

“I had just given up football,” Williams says. “I had just given up everything. And I got so much clarity and direction from that conversation that I became fascinated with astrology.” 

He spent the next decade studying astrology, sometimes under the tutelage of Sita, though mainly reading independently, extracting whatever information and knowledge he could from books on the subject in order to continue a lifelong quest for knowledge about himself and the universe at large. 

Still, Williams knew he needed focused instruction to apply what he was learning in his astrology texts to a real-world environment. 

“The basic language of astrology can be learned from a book,” Williams says. “But how to actually use that information needs to be learned from another person.” 

In 2015, after a successful and now-famous comeback to the NFL, Williams began to focus on his education in astrology more intently, studying with noted evolutionary astrologer Steven Forrest. In Williams, Forrest found an unusually ardent student.  

“(Ricky) dives into anything that fascinates him with an all-out commitment,” Forrest says. “He’ll disappear into books for hours. I’ve literally never seen anyone master the material I teach more rapidly.” 

 Williams likens the relationship he had with Forrest to those player/coach relationships he was all too familiar with as a running back. 

 “Mentors have been a big theme in my life, and it started with sports coaches,” he says. “People who can help me grow and improve.” 

After a multi-year apprenticeship under Forrest, learning to distill the glut of abstract information that comes with an astrological chart reading, Williams began doing his own readings with friends and family in 2018. 

Though he considered undertaking the podcasting form as a method of self-expression before, it wasn’t until his daughter Marley presented him with a treatment of her own, outlining what a podcast could look like, that Williams considered performing astrological readings in a public forum. From there, Curious Questions was born. 

Football will always be in Williams’ blood. He admits as much in his discussion with Foster, as he directs their conversation away from the game that defines much of both men’s lives, citing the fact that he, like most high-level football players, could spend all day talking football. 

The conversation winds for another hour, the two men discussing their shared passion for the search for and examination of their places in the wider universe. Over the course of the podcast, it becomes clear that while Williams is the one leading the conversation, he is listening as much as he is talking, using the back and forth with Foster to both learn and to guide.  

“The first half of my life has really been a journey to learn as much as possible,” Williams says. “I feel like I’m entering the second half of my life, where it’s about teaching. This is what the podcast symbolizes. I’m learning how to be a better teacher, a better communicator, to transform all of the experiences I’ve had into something that’s useful for other people.” 

His mentor Forrest describes Williams more succinctly: “Ricky’s a warrior, but he has the soul of a healer.”  

Credit: Collin Cobb, courtesy of Kast Media

 
 
 

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