It has been many years since Washington Huskies' starting safety Curtis Williams was paralyzed on the field battling pac-10 rival Stanford. It was the seminal moment in the 2000 Washington Huskies football season. In the last year the Huskies won the Rose Bowl, they lost someone along the way. Number 25, Curtis Williams, a safety who likely would have made it in the NFL became paralyzed from the neck down making a tackle on running back, Kerry Carter, during a contentious matchup in Palo Alto. With the biggest game in Washington versus Stanford history this Friday, we should pause and reflect on the life that was lost 14 years ago after complications due to injury Williams sustained on that rainy October afternoon at Stanford Stadium.
I can not say that I knew Curtis Williams well but I recall one thing distinctly about him, he was very funny. On the team bus heading to the game he would be making guys laugh and would command an audience with his humor. Curtis was an outstanding athlete and dedicated to the art of football. He was a team leader, a mentor and a friend to many players at Washington. His spinal injury suffered against Stanford left Curtis a quadriplegic. Everyone on the team knew his injury was serious that October day but somehow, despite shedding many tears on the sideline, were able to muster a last minute win. It was a pivotal point in the season and that win helped propel the Huskies to the Rose Bowl which they beat a Drew Brees led Purdue 34-24. The Huskies dedicated the win to Curtis who lost his mobility and two years later his life doing what he loved for the people he loved around him.
Curtis Williams life and death is an important reminder about how dangerous the sport of football can be. Eric LeGrand suffered a similar injury playing for Rutgers in 2010 and countless other players suffer traumatic injuries of all kinds in college and NFL football. The college athletes who entertain us four quarters at a time risk life and limb every time they go out on the field. Even college football players who never make it to the NFL often suffer from permanent injury and pain due to arthritis, scar tissue and even CTE. So when Stanford and Washington take to the field this Friday I think we all owe a moment of reflection for the life that ended too early in an effort to entertain us through athletics. The spark of Curtis Williams has gone but the memory of what he sacrificed for the sport should live on forever in our memories.
Curtis Williams legacy continues through his daughter Kymberly who currently lives in Alaska. Upon Curtis Williams' death a memorial scholarship fund was setup that is still active. The last recipient was Washington safety Darren Gardenhire.
For those interested in donating to the Curtis Williams Memorial Fund you can send donations to:
Curtis Williams Memorial Scholarship Fund c/o UW Athletics
University of Washington Foundation
Seattle, WA 98195