Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Death of gentle giant stunning for community

Todd Williams was the center of attention that day just a couple of years ago.

Read more here: http://www.bradenton.com/2014/01/07/4923244/former-southeast-fsu-football.html#storylink=cpy
The gentle giant worked his way around the room, decked out in a Michael Vick replica Atlanta Falcons' No. 7 jersey.
It was lunch time and high school football players from around the Tampa Bay area were at the Police Athletic League complex for a summer 7-on-7 tournament.
The room was packed and humid, but the former Southeast High School tackle had everyone's attention as he recounted his life, rising from the depths of  homelessness to the heights of a national championship with Florida State's Seminoles and a stint in the National Football League with the Tennessee Titans.
A remarkable odyssey.
Sadly, one with a tragic ending.
That Williams was found dead Monday in a Tamiami Trail motel where he lived for six years is stunning and upsetting.
So is word he was in bad shape, confessing to his mother he'd had stomach pain for the past month, lost his appetite, sense of taste and had been vomiting.
Why didn't Williams go to a hospital before now?
We'll never know.
What we do know is this is a terrible blow for our community and those who looked up to him.
Like the kids at Manatee Y Technological High School where he was a teacher.
Williams was a example of how one can overcome life's biggest obstacles and succeed.
Not just on the football field, either, but in the classroom.
Williams got degrees in sociology and criminology.
In 2002, he was the recipient of the NCAA's Inspirational Athlete of the Year Award.
Even Bobby Bowden said it was players such as Williams who made the coach's decision to retire from football such a difficult one.
When the legendary coach honors someone with such sentiment, it reinforces the fact Todd Williams was an extraordinary human being.
It also deepens our feeling of loss.

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