This story was originally published by the WND News Center.

Former NFL star Jimmy Williams dead from unspecified illness at age 43

A former NFL defensive player and special teams star, Jimmy Williams, passed away Friday at the age of 43 due to an unspecified illness in his hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, local ABC affiliate WBRZ reported.

His untimely death rocked the community, particularly his alma mater Episcopal High School, where he had been a standout player prior to his college and NFL career and where he had returned to serve as a beloved assistant coach of the football team.

Star high school athlete turned teacher and coach

Episcopal Athletics tweeted out a video of Williams delivering a motivational speech to his players and wrote, “[Episcopal Athletics] mourns the loss of our friend and colleague Jimmy Williams. There are no words to describe the impact this man had on our school and our lives. Thank you for being in the fight with us JW, we love you!”

WBRZ noted that Williams had been a “phenomenal” player at Episcopal who earned a scholarship to play at Vanderbilt University and was, at that time, the highest-rated player that Vanderbilt had ever recruited.

Williams was also a star defensive player at the university and, in fact, on the same day of his death was honored by being named to Vanderbilt’s Top 100 Commodores in the school’s history.

Played for the 49ers and Seahawks

NBC Sports reported that after his playing days at Vanderbilt were concluded, where he first played as a running back but later switched to play cornerback, Williams was drafted in the sixth round of the 2001 NFL draft by the Buffalo Bills, though he never actually played for that team and instead signed on with the San Francisco 49ers.

He ended up playing four seasons with the 49ers, and the team tweeted Friday, “The 49ers mourn the passing of alumni Jimmy Williams. Our organization sends its condolences to his wife, Chandra, and the entire Williams family.

According to The Seattle Times, Williams signed on with the New Orleans Saints after his stint with the 49ers but was cut prior to the start of the 2005 season, only to then later be picked up by the Seattle Seahawks in Week 3 of that season to replace an injured defensive back.

Williams only played two seasons in Seattle before retiring after the 2006 season due to his own injuries, but he made a name for himself and became a star on that team’s special teams squad during his brief tenure, even earning the honor of being selected as a special teams co-captain.

In a post to Twitter, the Seahawks wrote, “The Seahawks are devastated by the loss of former Special Teams Captain Jimmy Williams. Williams played two seasons for the Seahawks and was a member of Seattle’s Super Bowl XL team. We send our deepest condolences to the entire Williams family.”

The Times noted that Williams had returned to Baton Rouge after retiring from the NFL and became a teacher and assistant coach for Episcopal. According to NBC Sports, Williams played in 80 games over the course of his six-year NFL career, including seven games as a starter, and accumulated a total of 151 tackles, three interceptions, and one sack, not to mention the hundreds of yards he racked up as a punt return specialist.