Jimmy Williams, one of the greatest Vanderbilt football players in history and an All-SEC cornerback, died on Friday. He was 43 years old.
Williams had recently suffered from an illness, according to The Advocate in Baton Rouge. Additional details were not immediately available.
Williams was announced by the program as one of Commodore’s 100 Greatest Players of the Past 100 Years based on fan voting. One of three Vanderbilt players to have both a punt return and kick return touchdown, Williams was named SEC football legend in 2013. He is still fifth in program history in kickoff return yards.
After four years with the program, Williams was a sixth-round pick in 2001 who spent six years in the NFL with the Seahawks, 49ers and Texans.
Several prominent Vanderbilt executives have reflected on Williams’ impact.
“My heart aches as I write this,” said athletic director Candice Lee wrote on Twitter. “I am fortunate to have been a student-athlete and friend to Jimmy Williams. I spent time with him this week and it reminded me of the gift he is to the world. Learning of his passing makes me so bad.
“What a sad reminder to take nothing for granted. I want his sweet family to know that we love him and them.”
Football coach Clark Lea said he welcomed Williams, his wife Chandra and son Ace into his home on Wednesday. He praised the family’s resilience through “an excruciatingly difficult and painful experience”.
“Jimmy will be remembered for the energy and spirit with which he filled a room, the love and dedication he showed his beautiful family, and the choices he made each day to live a full life. facing the toughest adversity life has to offer,” Lea wrote in a statement.
Baseball coach Tim Corbin said Ace attended the team’s camp on Wednesday. “Chandra, you did your husband a favor by bringing him (here) to watch Ace,” Corbin wrote on Twitter. “You couldn’t take the smile off Jimmy’s face these 2 days. Chandra, we are thinking of you all, we are so sorry.”
Williams was always a fan of Vanderbilt athletics and served as honorary captain for the Commodores’ return game against Mississippi State in 2021.
A native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Williams spent six years in the NFL, four with the San Francisco 49ers and two with the Seattle Seahawks, making his only Super Bowl appearance in the 2005 season.
He retired in 2006, finishing his career with 151 tackles, three interceptions and 13 pass breakups. That same year, Williams was inducted into the Baton Rouge Episcopal Hall of Fame, his high school alma mater.
He returned to Episcopal in 2011 as a teacher and coach and most recently served as defensive coordinator and assistant athletic director.
Funeral arrangements were not immediately clear Friday night.
“There are no words to describe the impact this man has had on our school and our lives,” Episcopal said in a statement announcing his death. “Thank you for fighting with us JW, we love you.”
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