Jimmy Williams, SEC Football Legend, Dead at 43

Jimmy Williams, a former Vanderbilt Commodores football player who also spent time in the NFL, died on Friday, according to multiple reports. He was 43 years old. According to The Advocate in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Williams had recently suffered from an illness but the cause of death has not been revealed due to the family's wishes. 

Williams played cornerback and return specialist for Vanderbilt from 1997 through 2000. Earlier this year, Williams was named one of the 100 greatest Vanderbilt players of the past 100 years based on fan voting. He was named an SEC Football Legend in 2013 as he's one of these players in program history to have a punt and kick return touchdown. 

"My heart hurts as I write this," Vanderbilt athletics director Candice Lee wrote on Twitter. "I am blessed to have been student-athletes and friends with Jimmy Williams. I spent time with him this week and was reminded of the gift he is to the world. Learning of his passing hurts so badly. What a sad reminder this is to not take anything for granted. I want his sweet family to know we love him and them."

In 2001, Williams was selected in the sixth round of the NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills. He didn't make the team but joined the San Francisco 49ers the same year and would be with the team for the next four seasons. In 2005, Williams joined the Seattle Seahawks and played in Super Bowl XL against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He retired in 2006 and finished his career with 151 takes three interceptions and 13 pass breakups. 

"The 49ers mourn the passing of alumni Jimmy Williams," the team said in a statement. "Our organization sends its condolences to his wife, Chandra, and the entire Williams family." Following his NFL career, Williams was inducted into the Hall of Fame at Baton Rouge Episcopal, which is where he played high school football. In 2011, Wiliams returned to the school to be a teacher and coach. He most recently served as defensive coordinator and assistant athletics director. 


"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."