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“The nature of cannabis is it opens your mind. It got me thinking differently.”

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Former National Football League (NFL) star Ricky Williams recently sat down with FOX Sports to talk about how cannabis impacted his mental health during his storied football career.

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Williams, one of the greatest college football players of all time, played 11 seasons in the NFL. After his fourth violation of the league’s drug policy, Williams was suspended from the league for a year and went on to play the 2006 season with the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts.

Williams’ northern detour drew the ire of football legend Joe Theismann, who derided Williams as “a disgrace to the game.”

Williams addressed those comments in his interview with FOX.

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“It was a little bit confusing. But the nature of cannabis is it opens your mind. It got me thinking differently,” Williams told FOX.

“And what I realized is, this idea that these things are happening to me — maybe there’s a reason behind all this. And that really changed my perspective. And instead of feeling like a victim, I realized that this was a wonderful opportunity for me,” he said.

In particular, Williams said cannabis helped him to recover faster and not dwell on negative comments, which led to him performing better on the field.

“It’s not what people say, because when I consume cannabis, I wasn’t sitting on the couch,” Williams said. “I wasn’t being lazy. I was reading and reflecting and doing self-psychology and working on myself. When I retired from the NFL in 2004 and was free from those confines, I started to travel and have conversations and read and realized, ‘Oh, they lied to us about this.’”

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In the high-octane environment of professional football, Williams said cannabis allowed him to become more emotionally aware and drop his “macho man” demeanour.

“When I was in touch with how I was feeling, I noticed that I was much less anxious,” he said. “Instead of masking the issue, cannabis actually helped me get to the root of it.”

“After practice, when I would go home and smoke, I’d reflect on my day and I’d understand myself better. I’d understand where these certain urges were coming from, things that I didn’t understand so much,” he added.

Williams has remained busy since moving on from football. He launched a podcast last year, he’s co-writing a biopic about his life and football career and he also has his own cannabis brand, Highsman.

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Launched in October 2021, the proceeds from Highsman are donated to Athletes for CARE to support mental health initiatives. The non-profit is a collective of former athletes that raises awareness about the health challenges faced by athletes and advocates for plant-based medicines and alternative forms of therapy.

“We can talk about cannabis, and there’s been so much conversation about the effect. And so much of the conversation has been negative,” Williams told TMZ following the launch of Highsman. “That hasn’t been my experience, so it’s exciting to start talking about the positive effects.”

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