School stunned by death of former NFL player, teacher Williams

jdill@bradenton.comJanuary 8, 2014 

MANATEE -- A day after former NFL offensive lineman Todd Williams' body was found in a Manatee County hotel room, a community was left reeling.

The Manatee Y Technological High School, where Williams had been teaching, was hit hard.

"This morning we had a memorial assembly for Todd with all the students and teachers there," said Sean Allison, CEO of the Manatee County YMCA. "The school district and Manatee Glens both provided grief counselors and by the time they left, they felt like everything went about as smoothly as they have ever seen it go as far as how school personnel handled the assembly and the announcements."

Manatee County Sheriff's Office spokesman Dave Bristow has said there were no signs of foul play concerning Williams' death. Bristow said Tuesday an autopsy had not been performed yet and a toxicology report could take as long as six weeks.

No services are planned yet.

Former FSU teammate and fellow Southeast alum Peter Warrick was saddened by the news of Williams' passing.

"I knew Todd off the field, that's why it cuts me," Warrick said Tuesday from Atlanta, where he now lives. "Because he was a friend of mine. And I knew he was a good person."

Williams, who was 35, had lived at the Sarasota Suites hotel for the past six years. He apparently suffered discomfort in his stomach for about a month, and his mother, Ozepher Fluker, advised him to go to the hospital Friday. After she didn't hear from him over the weekend, Fluker went to the hotel where her son was living.

The sheriff's office responded at about 11:15 a.m. Monday and found Williams dead in his room, the Herald reported late Monday.

Living in a hotel, though, was more than Williams had growing up. He spent his

youth homeless and trying to put a roof over his head during his high school career at Southeast.

Paul Maechtle, recently retired as the Southeast High Seminoles' head coach, touted Williams to Jeff Bowden, who recruited the area for Florida State University at the time.

Williams received a scholarship to play football at FSU before leaving for the NFL after the Tennessee Titans drafted the 6-foot-5, 330-pounder in 2003.

"He had gone through a lot of adversity," Warrick said. "I always learned in life what makes a man -- not defines him when you're down -- it's what you do when you get back up. He'd been through so much in his life that I always knew in my heart, 'This guy right here is going to make it.'

"Whenever you think you have it bad, there's always someone else in this world that has it worse," Warrick added. "I feel like Todd was that person. If he can make it, then anybody can make it. And you also need to have God first. ... Todd had God first, and that's why he made it."

Williams was a volunteer coach at Palmetto High where he was united with head coach Dave Marino, who was a position coach for Williams during his career at Southeast High.

Allison said Williams' goals were to become a history teacher and a high school football coach.

"Todd had made such huge changes in his life and was at a point where he had accomplished such great things," Allison said. "He chose to come back to his home community and find a place where he could work with kids that were in similar positions as he was when he was growing up. And help inspire them to make bold choices, and make decisions that would propel them forward in life."

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