Texas Longhorn legend Ricky Williams has plenty of passion for football — and the accomplishments to go along with it. Williams has won the Heisman Trophy, broken an NCAA rushing record in a historic scoring run and joined the NFL’s illustrious 10,000-yard club.
On a stifling Wednesday evening at DKR Memorial Stadium within sight of his No. 34 jersey hanging alongside five other Longhorn legends, Williams shared his other passion (outside of the football stadium) with a few lucky diehard Longhorn fans. Devoted fans, each with one guest, were taught a yoga session from the “Texas Tornado.”
The yoga students for this evening were contestants in the Longhorn Network’s Downward Dog at DKR photo contest, where participants were asked to submit their best Longhorn-centric yoga pose for a chance to attend an exclusive yoga session with Williams. The contest was also part of the network’s Watch What You Love TV ad campaign featuring four TV spots written by UT advertising students and starring UT icons including Williams.
The ad features certified yoga instructor Williams leading a class featuring some football inspired poses that may not be real — but Williams’ love for yoga is.
“When I retired in 2004, I started traveling and I started studying stuff at [the California College of] Ayurveda, and part of the coursework was taking a yoga class,” Williams tells CultureMap of his first retirement from the NFL. “And so I took a couple of classes and I really loved it. And one day we had this teacher come in — and my whole world opened up.”
Williams would seek out further enlightenment on the subject, even embarking on a trek to India to take part in a training course, but not with the goal in mind of becoming an instructor himself. “I had no intention of teaching,” he says. “There was just so much information, and I loved the practice, and I just wanted more of it. I was just willing to go wherever I could get more of it.”
And plenty of Longhorn fans were eager to win a chance to learn from an icon of Texas football.
“The opportunity to be on the field with a Heisman Trophy winner is impossible to pass up,” says contest winner Luke Shaffer, who had only practiced yoga a few times before but is willing to learn more about it from a football idol. “When I found out I made it I started watching videos and kind of trying to go along with it, and I really do feel a lot better after doing it. So, you know, maybe this is the kick in the pants I need to get in shape… I need a good outlet for stress relief. It’s a good option. You can just do it at home for free and all you need is a mat.”
Shaffer and the rest of the lucky contest winners went to their mats out on the middle of Joe Jamail Field, and despite the evening heat, calmness soon entered the empty stadium as Williams led the class in breathing techniques and yoga poses. And while Williams does exalt the fitness benefits of yoga, he also strongly believes in its ability to bring clarity of mind.
“I think the greatest thing about yoga is really whatever you’re looking for, it has something to offer you. The main thing is it seems people create a separation between their life and their body, and so when you do yoga it shows you how to integrate the two… It forces you to be present and to be aware.”