Inspirational story of Williams to become movie

Published 1:14 pm Thursday, May 21, 2020

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They are moments Tanner Glisson treasures.

Over the years, Glisson has often visited his friend Jeremy Williams, the former football coach at Greenville High who has been living with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) for more than a decade.

Glisson, who is heading into his sixth season as Troup’s head football coach, always leave those meetings with positive feelings, despite the difficulties Williams faces while living with a debilitating disease.

“The times that I do go see him, I think to myself I’m going to go see Jeremy and cheer him up, and you always leave with him cheering you up, and him being a blessing to you instead of the other way around,” said Glisson, who played for Williams at Manchester before coaching alongside him at Greenville. “It’s just remarkable.”

Williams has inspired the lives of hundreds of people over the years, including Glisson, so it’s not surprising that his story will soon receive the big-screen treatment.

Williams’ life will be documented in a feature-length movie that will be filmed in Columbus and is scheduled to be released in the fall of 2021, although that could change because of delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The film will detail Williams’ courageous battle with ALS, as well as the relationship between he and his supportive wife, Jennifer.

“The story is not just about Jeremy and the football team” Steven Camp, the executive producer of “The Jeremy Williams Story”, told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. “It’s also about the love story of Jennifer and Jeremy.”

Williams was diagnosed with ALS during the summer of 2008 while he was preparing for his seventh season as Greenville’s head coach.

Williams coached for three more seasons, even as the disease took a severe physical toll, and by his final season at Greenville he was confined to a wheelchair.

The 2009 season, when Greenville went 11-1, is detailed in the documentary “Season of a Lifetime.”

The following year, Williams’ story went national when the television show “Extreme Makeover: Home edition” built a home for the family in Pine Mountain.

Williams, a native of Columbus who attended Kendrick High School, has dealt with so much heart-ache over the years, including the unexpected death of his father, as well as having a son, Jacob, born with spina bifida.

Jeremy and Jennifer also have a daughter, Josie.

“Long before he was diagnosed with ALS, I was a player for him (at Manchester) when his dad passed away from a massive heart attack,” Glisson recalls. “I can remember going to the house with him the next day and remembering how positive and at peace he was even with the death of his father. And then years later when I’m coaching with him at Greenville, that’s when Jacob was diagnosed with spina bifida. They went through that whole thing. I remember how positive they all were. And then years later he was diagnosed with ALS. So, it’s your modern-day story of Job, right out of the bible.”

During the 90s, Glisson was a star football player at Manchester High, and he was fortunate to have Williams as his position coach first as a defensive back, and then as a quarterback.

At the same time, Jennifer Williams was his biology teacher.

“Jennifer has always been the backbone,” Glisson said. “They were high-school sweethearts, and they went to college together.

Later, when Williams became the head coach at Greenville in 2002, he brought Glisson aboard to help fill out his staff.

The Patriots only managed one win in 2002, but they rebounded to go 8-3 in 2003, and Glisson learned a lot from Williams about handling challenging situations.

Glisson applied those lessons when Troup went 1-9 in 2015 in his first season as the team’s head coach. Troup, just as Greenville did more than 10 years prior, responded with an 8-3 record the next season.

“It was a really good learning experience,” Glisson said of his time working with Williams. “I learned a lot about adversity with how Jeremy handled himself during the 1-9 season. So that was real beneficial to me the older I got. I look back on some of those lessons I learned from him.”

Williams went on a ventilator in 2012, and the disease has continued to take its toll on him over the years, and there is nothing Williams is able to do on his own,

Yet Williams has survived, which is remarkable in its own right.

According to the ALS Association, only 10 percent of people live for more than 10 years after receiving the diagnosis, and the average life expectancy is three years.

Jennifer, who has been by her husband’s side every step of the way, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Steve Hummer that “it shows how faithful our savior is. Jeremy’s a blessing to have here and be a part of our lives.”

For Glisson, the lessons he learned while playing for Williams and coaching alongside him have stayed with him for decades.

What he remembers is a man who led not so much with his words, but by the way he carried himself.

“I heard a quote years ago, preach the gospel always, and when necessary use worlds,” Glisson said. “He was that guy that led by example. You remember some of what he said, but you remember everything from what he did, how he carried himself.”

As for when the movie can begin to be filmed, that remains to be seen because of the coronavirus.

Camp said he and the others affiliated with the movie are committed to making it happen, no matter the challenges.

“We trust in God that it’s going to happen the way it’s going to happen,” he said. “There are few opportunities in life to do well while doing good, and this story is exactly that opportunity.”