Jones graduate Jarvis Williams finds fit, family support with Orlando Predators
Jones graduate Jarvis Williams has become productive receiver in first season with Preds
Orlando Predators wide receiver Jarvis Williams, who went to Jones High, has 14 receiving touchdowns as an Arena Football League rookie. (George Skene, Orlando Sentinel)
Except for Williams, that was his mother, Olivia Butler — the only parent he has ever truly had.
"On Father's Day, I said 'Happy Father's Day,' to him, and he said, 'Happy Father's Day to you, and I love you for being there for me,' " Butler said. "It was so sweet."
And Butler will be there at the Amway Center at 7:30 Friday night, cheering on Williams in his rookie season as the Predators face the Cleveland Gladiators in an Arena Football League game.
Following a tough year in which Williams was overlooked in the NFL Draft, the Jones and 2010 North Carolina State graduate moved back to Orlando with a degree in parks, recreation and tourism management.
While working out with coach Tom Shaw at ESPN Wide World of Sports, another player suggested he call Predators coach Bret Munsey. Since signing, Williams, 24, has caught 52 passes for 535 yards and 14 touchdowns.
"The big upside is that he's 6-foot-4, 215 [pounds], which is a good size,'' Munsey said. "if he continues to do better, he will have a future in our league and then maybe at a league above if he can continue to mature and get better."
For now, though, Williams likes where he is.
"I wouldn't mind playing my whole career with the Orlando Predators," Williams said. "It's a great organization, great history. Why not want to be a part of it, with my high school down the street and my family down the street?"
After growing up without a father — Jarvis' dad, Charles, died when he was 7, and he can recall seeing him only twice in his life — Williams is determined to be a strong role model for his son. Jarvis Jr., 5, lives with his mother in Orlando.
That inspiration mainly comes from Butler, who raised three children and never missed one of Williams' in-state games. But some also stems from Williams' relationship with Jones basketball coach Jerry Howard.
"He always pushed me growing up in high school and helped me be the man that I am, a big part of it," said Williams, who made all-state teams in football and basketball at Jones. "He played a key role in keeping me disciplined."
Williams cites his brother, Charles, 29; sister Tamika, 36; mother; and grandmother as sources of support.
"My family helped out big time with the father-figure type stuff," Williams said. "I want to be a way better father to [my son] and be involved in his life and be on him, because I never heard that manly voice in my ear until I was in basketball or football practice."