Former Episcopal star and NFL player Jimmy Williams, a teacher and coach at his alma mater for the past 11 years, has died after an illness. He was 43.
The school announced Williams’ death in a tweet, saying: “There are no words to describe the impact this man had on our school and our lives. Thank you for being in the fight with us JW, we love you.”
Williams also starred at Vanderbilt and played in the NFL for six seasons. He took on the role of assistant athletic director for the Knights in recent years.
“It’s a tough day,” Episcopal athletic director Randy Richard said. “It is such a huge loss. He was a great colleague, a friend and a coach that the athletes here loved. He was always smiling.
“We saw him last week. Chandra (Williams’ wife) brought their son to our (youth) football camp. Jimmy got to watch some 7-on-7. He got to see all the coaches and guys on the team. I am thankful for that.”
Williams was a four-sport athlete who excelled in football, basketball, baseball and track and field at Episcopal. He earned 15 varsity letters and was The Advocate Boys Athlete of the Year in 1996.
At Vanderbilt, Williams excelled as a defensive back and return specialist. He was honored as one of the Southeastern Conference Legends in Football in 2013.
A sixth-round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills in 2001, Williams played four years with the San Francisco 49ers and two with the Seattle Seahawks.
Williams was part of the 2005 Seattle team that lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl. He recorded 1,897 NFL return yards, 151 tackles and three interceptions.
“I got to watch his circle of life,” Episcopal football coach Travis Bourgeois said. “I saw him as an athlete in high school and saw him play professionally. I also watched him become a husband, a father and a teacher/coach.
“Jimmy was a great motivator and an innovator as a defensive coordinator. He brought music into practice, used motivational videos. He was always looking to find ways to make our team better. He cared so much for these kids.”
The Knights lost to Newman in the Division III quarterfinals last fall. Episcopal has made five straight Division III quarterfinal appearances.
“He was the classmate of my son Blake. I have known him known him since he was in eighth grade,” former Episcopal athletic director Myra Mansur said. “I just can’t believe it.
“Jimmy was a student first … a true student-athlete. He was fluent in multiple languages, including Japanese. Jimmy helped build Episcopal into a football playoff program again. I have so many memories of him first as a student and then as a colleague.”
Steve Baronich, who was Williams’ football coach as an Episcopal player, and Episcopal track and field coach Claney Duplechin offered their thoughts.
“Here’s the thing: Jimmy was a true four-sport guy. You don’t see that anymore,” Baronich said. “And he was a competitor. We knew we would get his best every time he stepped on the field.”
Duplechin added: “In 40-plus years, Jimmy is the best athlete I have coached. So talented … with speed and agility. He probably has 14 of the school’s top marks in the long jump and triple jump. But always a great person. This just doesn’t seem fair.”