Hawaii Practice Notes Day 4: Ace Williams, son of Vanderbilt legend Jimmy Williams, joins Clark Lea at practice

With Vanderbilt’s highly-anticipated matchup just two days away, the Commodores have dialed into the final stages of preparation.

Members+of+the+Vanderbilt+football+team+warming+up+before+practice+on+Aug.+23%2C+2022.+%28Vanderbilt+Athletics%29

Vanderbilt Athletics

Members of the Vanderbilt football team warming up before practice on Aug. 23, 2022. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

Andrew Wilf, Deputy Sports Editor

Editor’s note: Vanderbilt Athletics sponsored a trip to Hawaii for Deputy Sports Editor Andrew Wilf, granting him on-site access to the team’s day-to-day activities for journalistic purposes.

On July 9, Vanderbilt legend Jimmy Williams died at the age of 43 after suffering from an illness. Williams played in the NFL from 2001-2008 with the Buffalo Bills, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks and the Houston Texans. Following his NFL career, Williams returned to his hometown of Baton Rouge, La., to work for the Episcopal School of Baton Rouge. At his alma mater, he held the position of defensive coordinator and Assistant Athletic Director from 2011-2022.

When the 2022 Vanderbilt schedule was released, Williams circled the Commodores’ Week 0 matchup with Hawaii as one he wanted to go to. Although he couldn’t make the journey to Honolulu, his wife Chandra and son Ace made the trip. On Thursday, Williams’ son watched practice, joined in on team stretches and spoke to the team. 

“Ace is, first of all, such a special young person and a guy that means a lot to me. His mom Chandra is with us as well,” Lea told the Hustler. “Having Ace with me meant a lot to me and it means a lot to our team to have him with us. It was fun to stand with him and listen to huddle breaks and listen to play calls…He’s smart and he gets it and I think he had a great experience on the field too but more than that it means a lot having him with us.”

Vanderbilt athletic director Candice Storey Lee expressed deep gratitude towards Williams, admiring his personality and love for Vanderbilt athletics. She feels that it is an obligation to let William’s family members know that they are a part of the Vanderbilt family.

“Jimmy Williams and I were student-athletes at the same time,” Lee said. “I also had the great fortune of spending time with him in what ultimately was the last week of his life and he just, even when faced with the greatest obstacle in his life, he was so gracious.”

After speaking about the great man Williams was, Lee explained how scheduling a game with Hawaii in consecutive years developed.

“Well, one thing to know about football scheduling [is that] those games tend to be scheduled very far out,” Lee said. “It was scheduled, I think in 2016. He [Derek Mason] wanted to make sure the student-athletes would get this kind of experience, so I feel very fortunate that we get to benefit from a schedule that Derek Mason and David Williams approved six years ago…What an incredible way to start a college football season.”

Vanderbilt’s clash with Hawaii is imminent, but there is still work to be done. Lea and his coaching staff used the later part of Thursday’s practice to have the student-athletes walk through Saturday’s game plan and familiarize themselves with the playbook.

“We got a team that is ready to play,” Lea said. “Thursdays are always about kind of dialing into the final stages of preparation and it was a focused afternoon of work. I was pleased with the growth of the plan and the execution throughout the week and I’m excited to see these guys on Saturday go out and take that preparation of performance.”