David Mitchell commentary: Jeremy Williams is a truly remarkable man

January 31, 2014 

How do you tell a story that has already been told countless times by countless people to countless audiences? How do you find a new piece to the puzzle of a person who has already put all the pieces together on their own?

That was the challenge I faced in writing a feature about Jeremy Williams, whose incredible family has already been profiled for the Ledger-Enquirer, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, a documentary film and, now, an autobiographical book.

What can you say about the Williams' that hasn't already been said by others?

Before meeting the Williams family, I talked to Manchester football coach Tanner Glisson, who has played for, coached with and coached against Jeremy. I was prepped with a simple statement:

"Jeremy Williams really is the most incredible person you will ever meet," Glisson told me, adding that the rest of his family shared the same virtues.

I watched the episode of Extreme Makeover that captivated millions around the country, including the host, Ty Pennington, who said in the episode that, of all the families he had worked with, the Williams family was among the most rewarding.

I read portions of the book, Tenacious, and watched video clips from the documentary, Season of a Lifetime, in which Jeremy's final season as coach of Greenville High was chronicled.

Still, I did not have a firm grasp of who Jeremy Williams was.

Not until we met face-to-face at an event on the Tenacious Tour in Sharpsburg, Ga.

During those four hours, I learned more about what it means to live than, perhaps, I have in my entire life.

When I first met him, I wasn't exactly sure how to act.

I felt impersonal or impolite, which, of course, I shouldn't because it is a natural reaction. In the advanced stages of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease, Jeremy cannot shake hands or say hello in the way we are accustomed to. Instead, he gives a bright smile that lets you know he's pleased to meet you.

Your gut reaction is to feel sorry for the man. Sorry he has to live with the horrible, eventually fatal disease.

Sorry for the inability to interact as we all interact. Sorry he no longer gets to experience the coaching career in which he was very successful.

But he doesn't feel sorry for himself. On the contrary, he describes his life as a "blessing." And you wonder what he has that you don't that allows him to be so happy and satisfied in his life.

He was a phenomenal football player at Kendrick High and the University of Memphis and an equally talented high school coach at Greenville. Those abilities have earned him induction into the Chattahoochee Valley Sports Hall of Fame.

But those things aren't what define him. He is defined by his faith and his ministry, which was always his purpose as a football coach.

We all look at what he's done and marvel at his resilience. He, however, says there is nothing to be proud of.

"The way I look at it is that is what we are all called to do," he wrote in an email.

"I do not believe we were just created to live and die. We were created for a purpose. I am nothing special, just doing my part."

That is his legacy.

That is his story.

David Mitchell, dmitchell@ledger-enquirer.com. Follow him on Twitter @leprepsports.

Ledger-Enquirer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service