Ricky grabs an oar

Argonauts co-owners Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon show off their team's newest acquisition...

Argonauts co-owners Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon show off their team's newest acquisition Sunday, former NFL running back Ricky Williams. (Toronto Sun/Dave Abel)

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:36 AM ET

It took several weeks of casting their line, struggling through some tricky legal waters, but the Argos have landed their big fish: Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams.

The Argos announced yesterday the signing of Williams, a Heisman Trophy winner with the University of Texas in 1998, and an individual who has had a mixed career in the pros. He led the National Football League in rushing yardage in 2002, but is suspended this season for his fourth substance abuse violation.

Because the Canadian Football League doesn't prohibit suspended NFL players, the Argos put the superstar running back on their negotiation list last month and began trying to sign him.

"The more we got to know him, every minute more we spent with him, all of a sudden drove us to another level of aggressiveness to get this deal done," said David Cynamon, who owns the team with Howard Sokolowski. "We just turned it up another notch (on Saturday) and ... kind of forced the Dolphins to come in on a Sunday and a long weekend (in the U.S.). We were relentless in our desire to get this thing done."

The deal is one year, reportedly at a salary of $240,000, a pittance really for a player who reportedly has made $14 million US since joining the NFL in 1999 with New Orleans.

"It's important that he be able to come in and fit with the guys and be perceived as one of the guys," his agent, Leigh Steinberg, said.

The Argos won't bind him to the option year that is standard with all CFL contracts, but it took assurance from CFL commissioner Tom Wright to help in that process.

"Everybody has been so nice and so positive and it's really an uplifting feeling to be in this kind of environment," Williams said. "I'm a very positive person. I understand in life as you go through adversity, it only gives you an opportunity to make the best of the situation. I'm happy to be here in Toronto, having the chance to further my career on the football field. Even more importantly, I have the chance to serve the community, to serve my teammates ... and just to live life on a grand scale."

Argo head coach Pinball Clemons, who is like Williams in his spirituality, gave him a hearty endorsement.

"Anybody who makes it to this level has the ability to turn opposition into opportunity," he said. "What I think we'll witness in this circumstance is that our fans will turn into fanatics. Everybody won't be in support, it's just the nature of life. But with Ricky Williams, I think he'll turn the cons into converts, no pun intended."

Williams praised the Dolphins for letting him play.

"I don't think there's very many benefits to the Dolphins," he said. "I think that speaks volumes (about head coach) Nick Saban and the Dolphins organization."

When asked how he will convince skeptics in every city he travels to in the CFL he won't sustain a fifth substance abuse violation, Williams provided an interesting reply.

"Skepticism in itself has been born in the skeptic," he said. "If you take a positive person, they won't have the ability to be skeptical."


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