While the Fox Creek High School football players and fans celebrated a last-minute win Saturday night, one of their own was bracing for an entirely different battle.
C.J. Williams, the team’s starting tailback and top tackler, was in a hospital bed. A knot on his neck that popped up after he helped Fox Creek win its season opener Aug. 19 was diagnosed as Hodgkins lymphoma, head coach Russ Schneider said.
Instead of planning for football match-ups, road trips and a possible state playoff run, Williams is now preparing to battle for his life.
“It hit me hard at first,” he said. “But I know there’s no way of getting around it. I told myself I have to toughen up to get through this.”
The Fox Creek community has quickly embraced Williams and his upcoming battle. Schneider said his players are wearing two different stickers on their helmets this season to honor their teammate and star quarterback Marty Williams will wear C.J.’s jersey for the rest of the year.
“Everything is dedicated to him,” Schneider said. “I’ll never forget Saturday night, the team, the cheerleaders, the fans. All of them were chanting, ‘C.J., C.J.’ in the middle of the game.”
Williams, who underwent a series of tests over the weekend, said he expects to hear from his doctors today about treatment and recovery time. Schneider said the senior tailback entered the season with a 3.5 grade point average and interest from a few small area college football programs. But Williams said he has spent the last week unsure of anything about his future.
“What’s helped is I’ve heard from everybody - school, church, friends,” Williams said. “It gets as little overwhelming sometimes, I mean, I have to get my rest, too. But everybody at Fox Creek has stepped up for me and helped me out and my mom and my grandma, too.”
Members of Good Hope Baptist Church, where Williams and his mother, Christina Berrien, attend, have made trips to the hospital to lend their support in prayer.
“I hope everyone will keep praying for him,” Berrien said. “That’s what we need the most right now.”
Coaches from Laney, where Williams went to school before he transferred to Fox Creek, have also visited.
“I love all the support and prayers. I need them,” he said. “I want everybody to know I’ll come back stronger and better than ever.”
Schneider said donations to help cover Williams’ medical expenses can be made through Fox Creek High School.
Reach Billy Byler at (706) 823-3216