As the high school football season in Arkansas comes to a close, Jarrell Williams Bulldog Stadium in Springdale sits empty in the cold December weather. In the south endzone, a maroon banner commemorates the memory of a former player.
For former teammate and UA freshman Garrett Vaughan said the number of lives that Kyler and his passing has impacted is immeasurable.
“I remember going to his funeral and just being astounded by the amount of people who were there,” Vaughan said. “People, not only from Springdale but from all over came to support the Williams family and reminisce on memories because Kyler could make friends with just about anyone.”
Vaughan, along with former Springdale quarterback Grant Allen, were the most recent recipients of the annual award named in Kyler’s honor. The award is given to a player or multiple players who exemplifies excellence on and off the field. Vaughan said earning the award named after his friend and mentor meant a lot to him.
“It really was a tremendous honor to receive the award with (Allen) as an accomplishment for our athletic ability, but I think it was even more so about how we tried to embody the leadership and character of Kyler,” Vaughan said.
Sept. 24, 2016, was going to be a typical Saturday for Kyler Williams and his family. Nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary.
“We were watching the Razorback game,” Tysha Williams said, Kyler’s mother. “(Kyler) was hunting in Kingston, out on some of our family’s land.”
Kyler Williams was an avid outdoorsman who loved to spend time in the woods and fish.
“If I know Kyler, he stayed as long as he could to get a deer,” Tysha said.
After pushing his time among the trees for as long as could, Kyler Williams headed back to get ready for the homecoming dance later that night. Unfortunately, he would never return. Kyler’s car rolled multiple times on Arkansas Highway 21, and he was ejected and killed. Tysha Williams received the call no parent ever wants. Her son was gone.
“To this day, I don’t know what happened,” Tysha Williams said. “I try not to dwell on it because I feel like that’s the enemy’s way of getting me down, so I try not to think about that. I just have to trust that God is sovereign and in control and trust his plan.”
Kyler’s younger sister, who is a freshman at the UofA, said her relationship with Kyler meant a lot to her.
“We would always ride around in my stepmom’s Camaro,” Makenzy Williams, Kyler’s little sister, said. “That’s where we grew our closest bonds.”
But most people knew Kyler Williams for his talents on the football field.
“He was a really small kid, but he was very athletic,” said Jackson Hutchison, a former teammate. “He was able to take over a game at any point.”
What people saw on Friday nights was just Kyler being Kyler. He gave everything, 110% of his effort, his mother said.
“He had a sense of competitiveness that not a lot of other guys had,” Zak Clark said, Springdale’s head coach. “Good players, they don’t go really hard in practice. He wasn’t that way, he just loved playing.”
Through the 16 games he competed at the varsity level, Kyler accumulated 106 receptions, more than 1,500 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns.
His memory is carried on by his family, teammates, classmates and anyone who has heard his story.
“We’ve got a sign in the south endzone (of Jarrell Williams Bulldog Stadium) that guys will go by and touch,” Clark says. “I saw about every senior when we left the field on Friday went by there and at least stood by there or touched it.”
Tysha Williams said she thinks her son made a difference in more than just the community.
“I feel like he’s touched so many lives. His life and his death have impacted people,” his mom said. “I wouldn’t go through it again for anything, I wish he was back here, but it’s changed a lot of people for the better and it’s definitely changed us for the better.”