Seven-year-old Jacob Williams held a camera near his father’s face Sunday and offered concise instructions for posing: “Look awesome.”
Jeremy Williams met the request with his signature smile -- an expression that’s served as a reminder of faith, trust and gratitude.
Those qualities drew several hundred people to a NOW Sunday school class presentation honoring Williams and his family at St. Luke United Methodist Church.
Williams, the 38-year-old head football coach at Greenville High School, has ALS -- also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
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The fatal condition affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. It’s incurable and affects behaviors like speech, swallowing and breathing.
Williams and 38-year-old wife Jennifer have two children: Josie, 9, and Jacob, 7. Jacob has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair.
The family’s Pine Mountain Valley home was featured on an “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” episode that aired in May. Crews filmed the episode in February.
But Sunday’s crowd wasn’t interested in learning reality TV secrets. Instead, the class focused on the family’s strong religious faith.
Andy Robinson, who presented the Sunday school class, described a reference to Christmas that happened in the “Extreme Makeover” episode.
“The Christ in Christmas through Jacob and Jeremy and the Williams family was shared, I believe, worldwide,” Robinson said.
Audience members saw photos and videos of Jeremy Williams and his family.
Waverly Hall artist Pat Christian presented a portrait of Williams playing for Memphis State University (now the University of Memphis) in a 1991 football game when Memphis defeated the University of Southern California.
Dell McGee, head football coach at Carver High School, got emotional while describing Williams’ strength to the crowd. McGee and Williams played and coached football together.
“He always puts everyone else first,” McGee said of Williams.
Chip Medders, principal at Manchester High School, said Williams embodies values that dominate the holiday season.
“He is so thankful for everything that he’s given, and I think that’s the Christmas spirit,” said Medders, who coached football with Williams for several years.
Jeremy Williams sat in a wheelchair throughout the presentation, visibly moved by emotion.
Williams has a way of inspiring generosity. Thousands of people registered to volunteer with the local “Extreme Makeover” project.
“There’s a lot of love out there,” Williams said.
The Williams family knows life isn’t always easy. They rely on trust while braving life’s uncertainties.
“Trust for one moment and then let that one moment get bigger,” Jennifer Williams said, directing her advice to people facing struggles.
Jacob Williams snapped his father’s photo and watched him exchange hugs and handshakes with admirers. Jacob’s reaction to the scene?
“My daddy is the most awesome daddy in the world,” he said.
And with a knowing grin, he suggested that “looking awesome” goes much deeper than mastering a good snapshot.
Sonya Sorich, 706-571-8516