Infamous for being a pot-smoker, former NFL running back Ricky Williams estimated two years ago that he'd lost as much as $10 million in salary and potential endorsements during his playing days due to his marijuana use.
Now, Williams thinks cannabis can help him make some of that money back. In March, Williams, 40, unveiled his new career: founder of Real Wellness, his personal brand of cannabis-based products.
"I realized that I was a healer," Williams tells CNBC Make It.
"I feel like with my unique background as a football player, having to deal with a lot of pain and a lot of stress [and] anxiety — and the path that I've been on, most importantly my education over the past 10 years — has put me in a unique position where I have a niche, an expertise to offer the world," Williams says.
Indeed, Williams, a Heisman Trophy winner at the University of Texas and a first-round pick in the 1999 NFL Draft, played 11 seasons of professional football and rushed for over 10,000 yards in total. He earned a total of more than $24 million from his NFL contracts, according to sports contract website Spotrac.
But his career was frequently disrupted by the criticism and punishment he received over his unapologetic use of marijuana as a treatment for depression and social anxiety disorder. He failed multiple drug tests early in his career and served a one-year suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, at one point even stepping away from the field for a yearlong "retirement" in 2004 rather than face a suspension for a failed drug test.
Since retiring for good in 2011, Williams has spent much of his post-NFL life studying everything from psychology (he earned his undergraduate degree from UT two years ago) to herbalism and holistic medicine. And, over the past few years, he's also become an outspoken advocate for legal cannabis and was actively looking for investment opportunities in the rapidly growing marijuana industry.