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Miami Dolphins’ Sony Michel to don No. 34 as sign of respect to Ricky Williams

Andrew Buller-Russ
Sony Michel
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Nowadays, NFL stars can be found on nearly every team at the wide receiver position, but there was a time when every kid growing up wanted to be like their favorite running back. For new Miami Dolphins tailback Sony Michel, that childhood idol was none other than former ‘Phins great Ricky Williams.

Ricky Williams’ footprint was larger than life in Florida

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JAMIE GERMANO/ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle via Imagn Content Services, LLC

After being born in Orlando, Florida in 1995, Sony Michel may not have been around to remember when Ricky Williams was running through defenses with the Texas Longhorns, where he won a Heisman Trophy in 1998.

Williams’ profile coming out of college was so large that coach Mike Ditka traded his entire 1999 New Orleans Saints draft class, in addition to two of his top three picks in 2000, for the chance to move up and select Williams. He spent just three years with the Saints before being traded to the Dolphins for two first-round picks and change. Both of these trades would be unheard of today, but it shows how much Williams was valued around the league in his heyday.

While Michel may not have been around for his initial rise to stardom, he was old enough to remember Williams becoming a superstar later with the Dolphins.

After back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons with the New Orleans Saints, Williams landed in Miami, where he immediately experienced the best year of his professional career.

  • Ricky Williams stats: 1,853 rushing yards, 16 TD in 2002

Despite his fame, his first year with the Dolphins was the only Pro Bowl or All-Pro team he made in his 11-year playing career.

Williams followed up his 2,216 yards from scrimmage in 2002 with 1,723 more in 2003.

He then abruptly retired in 2004 after testing positive for marijuana, in which he was set to face a four-game suspension in addition to a $650,000 fine. This fine equaled a much larger percentage of his salary back then than what star players deal with in the modern era.

  • Ricky Williams contract in 2003: $2.63 million

But Williams’ passion for football was too strong to walk away forever. Williams then spent some time in the Canadien Football League after yet another suspension, this time for a full year from the NFL.

Williams did enjoy one final year of glory, racking up 1,121 yards on the ground later with the Dolphins at the age of 32, but he would never top his run from 2000 to 2003 in which he gained 5,470 rushing yards.

Still, Williams left an impression on millions of football fans, all while rocking No. 34 playing for the Saints, Dolphins, and Baltimore Ravens.

Related: Sony Michel signs with the Miami Dolphins, giving the team another weapon

Sony Michel’s Florida roots spawned fondness for NFL great

One of those early Ricky Williams fans, is Sony Michel.

Despite being just seven years old when Williams had his best season in the NFL, he clearly left an impact on the young impressionable mind of Michel.

So much so that now Michel, playing for the Dolphins as Williams once did, wants to honor the former NFL great by wearing the same No. 34 his idol once wore. But he doesn’t want to simply have the number on his jersey, he wants to thrive, just as Williams once did.

“Everybody knows, man, this is a great number. Ricky Williams ran the ball hard here. I’m sure he did a lot of numbers (statistics), you know what I’m saying? So I can’t just be rocking it just to rock it. I’ve got to come out here and put in some work.”

Sony Michel on wanting to pay respects to Ricky Williams with No. 34

It’s worth noting, that the 1,853 rushing yards Williams gained in 2002 is still a Dolphins’ team record.

In his first season with the team, Michel is expected to compete for a starting role along with Raheem Mostert, Chase Edmonds, and Miles Gaskin.

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He has previously worn numbers 25 and 26 with the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams, but now fans will get their chance to purchase a No. 34 with Michel on the back. Or they could always bust out their Miami Dolphins Ricky Williams jerseys. Whatever works.

Although Michel may not get that chance under coach Mike McDaniel to receive 430 touches as Williams did, he clearly wants to leave a big impression on the next generation of Dolphins fans.

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