May 6, 2002
Seattle - Former Washington football player Curtis Williams passed away this morning at his brother's home in Fresno, Calif. The exact cause of death has not yet been announced.
Williams was 24 years old at the time of his death. He celebrated his birthday on Saturday, May 4.
During the 2000 season, Williams, a senior strong safety, suffered a spinal cord injury during the Huskies' October 28 football game at Stanford that left him paralyzed below the neck. Williams was injured with 2:01 remaining in the third quarter when he attempted to make a tackle on Stanford running back Kerry Carter.
"Everyone in the Husky family, the coaches, the players, our staff and our fans, we are all deeply saddened by Curtis' death," said Washington Rick Neuheisel who is in Spokane for the Alumni Association's annual Coaches Tour golf tournament. "This has been a real tragedy, from that late October day until today, when he passed away. 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.
"I am grateful that he was able to come back to Washington before he passed away. I know it really meant a lot to him to be able to see Husky Stadium again, to meet with the coaches and his former teammates. I will always admire Curtis for his tremendous courage and for inspiring all of us to learn to perservere 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.
"I choose to take this time to celebrate Curtis and his memory," Neuheisel said. "As his brother, David told me today, 'He's somewhere right now and he's running, fast.'"
"We are all devastated to hear that Curtis passed away today. This is a complete shock," said Washington athletic director Barbara Hedges who is in Spokane for the Alumni Association's annual Coaches Tour golf tournament. "When Curtis came to campus two weeks ago, 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. He was thrilled to see his teammates and to meet with the academic services staff about completing his degree. He only had six more classes to finish.
"We asked Curtis if he wanted to go down on the field during the spring game and he told me no, but he was looking forward to coming back to campus in the fall and wanted to be back on the field for a home game. We were all looking forward to that moment. Our condolences go out to the members of Curtis' family and will continue to support them in any way we can."
Williams made his first visit to Seattle since his injury two weeks ago for Washington's annual Spring Football Game on April 27. While in Seattle, he attended a Seattle Mariner's game and a benefit dinner, sponsored by KJR-AM, that raised $30,000 for his support fund. Williams watched from the press box when the Huskies won the 2001 Rose Bowl. He also attended the team's 2001 game at UCLA.
In tribute to Williams, the 2000 Washington team included his initials on their commemorative Rose Bowl championship rings.
Williams was a three-time letterwinner at Washington. He appeared in 24 games and started every contest as a junior and senior before his injury. Williams finished his career with 142 tackles and one interception.
Following his accident, the University of Washington established the Curtis Williams Fund to help support his long-term care and to assist with expenses over and above those covered by family, University and NCAA catastrophic injury insurance programs. The funds will be used to establish the "Curtis Williams Memorial Scholarship" at the University of Washington. Approximately $400,000 has been raised for the Curtis Williams Fund prior to his death.
Contributions to the Curtis Williams Memorial Scholarship Fund can be sent to:
The Curtis Williams Memorial Scholarship Fund
c/o The University of Washington
1200 Fifth Avenue, Suite 500
Seattle, WA 98101