Georgia football coach fighting ALS followed for documentary

Cameron Smith
September 30, 2010

Greenville (Ga.) High School football coach Jeremy Williams has a lot on his mind these days. He's trying to coach his players back to the state playoffs, hoping to build momentum on a 10-0 2009 regular season that preceded the Patriots' second-round exit from the Class A postseason.

He's also fighting one of the most debiliating diseases possible -- ALS -- while doing so. Add to that a constant following by a camera crew filming the entire Greenville season for a future documentary, and one can understand why Williams might get flustered when others come by to adjust his microphone levels.

Yet, according to Michael Carvell of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Williams continues to take everything in stride, all while leading the Patriots to a 3-1 early season record. The reigning National High School Football Coach of the Year, as named by the National High School Coaches Association, Williams has become a major media draw in the year since the Journal-Constitution first wrote about his refusal to stop coaching while fighting ALS.

Shortly after being named coach of the year, ABC's "Extreme Makover: Home Edition" re-made the Williams home to accommodate the coach's health issues and those of his son Jacob, who lives with spina bifida. Williams felt that a season-long documentary, which will be called "Season of a Lifetime," was the next logical step in spreading his story.

The man producing the documentary is Rick Cohen, an independent Atlanta filmmaker who outdueled ESPN and HBO, among others, for Williams' movie rights. Cohen's comments to the Journal-Constutition make it clear that he sees the overriding message from the film to be one of perseverance and faith:

"Through Jeremy's beliefs, his trust and his faith, he's convinced the illness is a blessing not a curse -- a direct message from God. To Jeremy, his illness is a way to reach out to his players with challenging family situations, to help mend the once-racially divided town, and to encourage his son stricken with spina bifida -- and in an amazing way for the rest of the world to see."

"The message is clear -- we are not promised one more day here on earth, somake the most of every day and make a difference."

In the meantime, Williams is still on the sidelines, right where he always has been. Despite his rapidly deteriorating health -- the coach is forced to sit in a motorized wheelchair this season after insisting on standing throughout 2009 -- Williams is where he loves to be, his wife Jennifer told the Journal-Constitution, "and that's around 45 players during football season." So there was never any question of his returning to coach another season.

For their part, the Greenville players are still just as motivated to win for Williams as they were a year ago.

"We all want to win for coach," Greenville quarterback Mario Alford told the Journal-Constitution. "He's a big inspiration, not only for our football team, but also the entire community.

"It's a good thing that this movie is being made because a lot of other people will be able to see what a great man he is."

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