May 25 - To An Athlete Dying Young
I lost a friend earlier this month. When someone dies at 27, someone so
seemingly healthy and vibrant, someone excelling at the top of his business
and athletic career, with a wife and young daughter and another on the way,
that death defies logic.
But when the cause of death is suicide, it goes beyond sad. It makes you take
pause and think that you really might not know someone from their outside
appearance, no matter how "together" he or she may seem to be.
Nothing in any of my dealings with mixed martial arts athlete, teacher and
academy owner Jeremy Williams would have ever led me to think I would ever
receive a call like the one I did earlier this month from his coach and close friend, telling me the
horrible news. You could have told me just about anything -- the world is flat!; the sky is red!; aliens
have taken over the White House! -- and I would have believed it sooner than this. Jeremy Williams is
among the last people I know that I would have felt would take his own life. I had to ask six times to
make sure I was hearing it correctly. So much promise, so much waste.
After the initial shock and sadness, I wanted to be angry. Angry at Jeremy for leaving his young wife
without a husband, his hundreds -- no, probably thousands -- of friends without his boundless
enthusiasm and smile, but, most of all, his two-year-old and his yet unborn daughter without the
amazing father he was to the first and would have been to the latter. How could this be? By his own
But then I was reminded by a friend with whom I discussed these feelings that no one does this
without having inner demons, ones I can scarcely imagine, tugging relentlessly at him. Depths of
depression I wish no one had to experience. A family history of suicide and depression that rose to
strike down even as strong-willed an individual as Jeremy.
I only knew Jeremy for a few months, but he quickly became one of my favorite athletes to work with.
He was unwaveringly dependable, and the kind of person who you wanted to tell the world about, to
let them know that the sport of mixed martial arts is all about discipline, hard work and training. He
was a publicist's dream, a good guy with a good story willing to tell it, but not for some selfish or
self-aggrandizing reason, but because it helps his team and his league. Just the day before he died,
Jeremy and I exchanged text messages about upcoming media and promotional opportunities. He
was working on arranging for a babysitter to accommodate the request.
This past Saturday, perhaps at a loss for the right words, the ring announcer at Jeremy's team's first
competition since the tragedy, said during the in-ring tribute that Jeremy, after so many victories in his
sport, had lost his final battle -- with life. The diction struck me and the writer sitting next to me as odd
-- did "life" win the battle? But he may have unwittingly revealed what Jeremy's life may have been like,
outside of the spotlight of the ring and the environs of his academy. The battle with life.
Rest in peace, my friend. Your fight is over.