Funeral for former Southeast, FSU football star Williams to be held Saturday

Southeast High, Florida St. star died Jan. 6

jdill@bradenton.comJanuary 15, 2014 

MANATEE -- Funeral arrangements have been set for former NFL player Todd Williams, who was found dead Jan. 6 in a Manatee County hotel room.

A wake is scheduled for 5 to 8 p.m. Friday at the 13th Avenue Dream Center, and the funeral is slated for 11 a.m. Saturday at the Happy Gospel Church, 1915 53rd Ave. E., said Manatee County YMCA CEO Sean Allison.

Williams taught at the Manatee Y Technological School, but had suffered from stomach pains for about a month, his mother, Ozepher Fluker, told the Herald on Jan. 6.

Fluker advised Williams to go to the hospital three days earlier and did not hear from him through the weekend.

That's when the Manatee County Sheriff's Office responded to a call to the Sarasota Suites, 7251 North Tamiami Trail, and found Williams dead at the age of 35.

Sheriff spokesman Dave Bristow said an autopsy has been completed, but the cause of death has not been ruled pending a toxicology report that could take as long as six weeks.

Williams was an inspiration for many in Manatee County and beyond.

Before the "Blind Side" book and movie told the story of Michael Oher, there was Williams, a troubled youth who was homeless following his grandmother's passing in 1993 from complications from diabetes.

Williams headed to Miami and became a thief before returning to Bradenton and turning his life around.

Coaches at Southeast High and others helped Williams, who became an all-state lineman.

From there, the 6-foot-5, 330-pounder was a redshirt freshman on Florida State's 1999 national championship team and was a two-year starter that double-majored in criminology and sociology.

That career in Tallahassee included winning the 2002 NCAA's Inspirational Athlete of the Year Award, and he parlayed his college career into an NFL career when he was drafted in 2003 by the Tennessee Titans.

"On the field, probably one of the most intense people I've ever seen," former Southeast teammate and current Palmetto High assistant Matt Braselton said of Williams. "At the high school level, just watching him dominate other kids, even kids that were supposed D-I guys ... he was just a nasty, nasty guy. Everything you wanted in a offensive lineman."

Following a short NFL career, Williams returned to Bradenton, where he lived at the Sarasota Suites for the past six years. He taught at the Manatee Y School, helping give kids a second chance like the one he received as a youth.

"He was an inspirational guy," Braselton said. "My first meeting with Todd was when I was a freshman playing at Southeast. ... Southeast at that time as a freshman, you were going up against some studs every day. Todd was always uplifting and telling you to stick with it. Encourage you to go to the weight room and do the right thing. ... He was definitely a leader and a guy that would encourage people. And just a really good guy, who cared about all the other kids, even the younger guys on the team."

Allison said he expects a large gathering of people who want to pay their respects.

"We heard from his brothers from Florida State University, and he was really close with them," Allison said. "So folks from Tallahassee will be coming down to it. Locally, all his friends and family -- and that's a large number -- and everyone at the school."

Williams is survived by his 9-year-old son, Todd L. Williams Jr. and mother.

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