Remembering Jarvis Williams

I was stunned and saddened to read reports this morning that former Gator safety Jarvis Williams had died. Williams apparently suffered a heart attack that took his life at a tragically young age of 45. The Palatka native will long be remembered as one of the best safeties in Gator football history. He's certainly the best high school safety I ever saw.

In 1983 I saw Jarvis and the Palatka Panthers as they faced Gainesville Buchholz High School in the state playoffs. I actually did the game no the radio and while John L Williams was the star of the show, Williams absolutely blanketed whichever receiver had the unenviable task of trying to cover him.

The following week Palatka hosted Riviera Beach Suncoast and all-American TE Richard Rellford. Early in the game Williams laid out Rellford in a hit very similar to his famous lick on Miami's Melvin Bratton. Rellford eventually got up but was never a factoring the game and eventually gave up football to concentrate on basketball at Michigan. I've always thought that hit from Jarvis helped Rellford choose basketball over football.

Jarvis had an outstanding career at Florida, twice earning first team all-SEC honors and making the Walter Camp All-American team as a senior in 1987. While most remember Williams' hit on Bratton as his signature play, his most important play came as a freshman.

It was the 1984 Florida/Georgia game and the Gators were desperate to end a six year losing streak to the Bulldogs. Florida led 14-0 late in the second half and Georgia was driving. You could feel the fear and apprehension on the Gator side as the "here we go again" mindset started creeping in. With less than a minute ‘til halftime Georgia challenged Florida's freshman cornerback (yes, Jarvis started out as a corner) with a throw to the corner of the end zone. Williams made a leaping interception to end the Georgia threat and restore some calm to the Florida sideline. I'll always wonder if the Gators might have folded had Georgia gotten that late score.

Jarvis had a good career in the NFL, playing for seven years -- six with the Miami Dolphins -- and intercepting 14 passes. He eventually went into coaching, helping his former teammate Kerwin Bell launch the program at Trinity Catholic High School in Ocala. His son Jarvis Jr. is a running back for Kerwin at Jacksonville University.

Godspeed Jarvis and may God bless your family and friends.

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