Former Husky football player Curtis Williams dies
Monday, May 6, 2002
By JANIE MCCAULEY
AP SPORTS WRITER
Former University of Washington football player Curtis Williams, paralyzed from the neck down in a game at Stanford in October 2000, died Monday just two days after his 24th birthday.
Washington Athletic Department spokesman Jim Daves said Williams died Monday morning of a "system failure" at the Fresno, Calif., home of his brother, David, where he had been living. A more specific cause of death was not immediately available, Daves said.
Williams, a strong safety, was in Seattle on April 27 to watch the Huskies' annual spring game and attend other events on campus. It was the first time he had been back since he suffered the spinal cord injury in the helmet-to-helmet hit while attempting to tackle running back Kerry Carter.
Williams was in precarious health during his visit. His temperature was rising and falling rapidly, Daves said.
"This has been a real tragedy, from that late October day until today, when he passed away," said coach Rick Neuheisel, in Spokane to take part in an alumni golf tournament.
"Although he was confined to his wheelchair, Curtis taught all of us associated with Husky football the true meaning of the word courage. I think anyone who met or was associated with that kid, they will find it hard to ever feel sorry for themselves," Neuheisel said.
"I will always admire Curtis for his tremendous courage and for inspiring all of us to learn to persevere in tough times. We always said that he was a warrior on the field. What we learned was that he was a warrior in life."
When Williams went to campus two weeks ago, athletic director Barbara Hedges said, "there were so many positives to look forward to."
"I talked to him at the baseball game and at the spring game. He was very upbeat." she said. "He was thrilled to see his teammates and to meet with the academic services staff about completing his degree."
At the time, Williams said he planned to attend Husky games this fall in Seattle and California. He was six classes short of earning his degree in American Ethnic Studies and had hoped to take correspondence courses and complete the work in about a year.
Williams played in 24 games and started every game as a junior and senior before his injury. He finished his career with 142 tackles and one interception.
Williams appeared at a benefit dinner April 25 that raised $30,000 for the Curtis Williams Fund, which has raised more than $400,000 total.
Following his accident, the university established the fund to help support his long-term care and to assist with expenses beyond those covered by family, school and NCAA insurance. The money also will be used to establish a scholarship at the university.