Former Florida Gators hall of fame safety Jarvis Williams, Sr. (1965-2010) passed away Tuesday evening. He was 45-years-old.
Though earlier reports stated Williams suffered a massive heart attack, the actual cause of death was ruled to be an acute asthma attack, according to a medical examiner. A person close to his family confirmed his passing to OGGOA early Wednesday morning.
Williams competed for the Gators as a defensive back from 1984 to 1987 under then-head coach Galen Hall. He started every game (45) for four consecutive seasons (third-most in school history), was twice named first-team All-Southeastern Conference and garnered national honors as a first-team All-American in 1987.
During Williams’ career at Florida, he recorded 239 total tackles including 172 unassisted. His 10 career interceptions ranked third all-time for the Gators when he graduated. He led the 1987 team in tackles (77) and punt return yards (222) and was also a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award (nation’s top defensive back) that year.
Drafted with the No. 42 overall pick in the second round of the 1988 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins, Williams would play there for six seasons before finishing his career with the New York Giants. As a professional, he nabbed 16 interceptions (five in 1990) with three sacks and one recorded touchdown.
He played most of his career with fellow Florida safety Louis Oliver, who also made the transition from the Gators to the Dolphins, getting drafted in the first round in 1989.
“Jarvis was just a great person. He’d give you the shirt off his back, he was funny as hell, great teammate, great person. There was nothing bad to say about him,” Oliver told the Palm Beach Post. “He just made the transition from college to professional ball so much easier for me, because he knew the system when I got here. […] I’ve always known Jarvis to pretty much stay in shape – shooting basketball, jogging, running, and when I got the news that he had a heart attack, that kind of shocked me. I stopped breathing this morning when I got the news. It’s just a sad day.”
After retiring, Williams was honored with an induction into the University of Florida’s Athletic Hall of Fame (F Club) as a Gator Great in 2001. He was also named to The Gainesville Sun‘s All-Century Team, as voted by its readers in 1999.
As recently as March 12, Williams competed with a bevy of other Florida players at the Miracle of Life Foundation golf tournament hosted by Emmitt Smith and Darryl Perry.
“[I am] deeply saddened to hear that Jarvis Williams has passed,” Smith said via Twitter. “Man…[he was] only 45 years old. Had the chance and the luxury to play with him. Man…Jarvis [was] such a great football player and person. I still remem[ber] the hit Jarvis put on Melvin Bratton in one of the games when I was being recruited by Florida. Jarvis will be missed. Heartfelt condolences to his fam[ily].”
Oliver on the above clip: “I remember it like it was yesterday – playing it up at UF, Bratton coming over the middle and Jarvis just knocking the s*** out of him. But he did that a lot. He did that in practice, he did that at Florida, he did that in games with the Dolphins.”
OGGOA sends our deepest condolences to the Williams family. We will update this story as more information is made available.
Photo Credit: George Tiedemann/Sports Illustrated