UL equipment manager Williams: A pro who liked to play
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, March 22, 2019
The UL football equipment room wasn’t always as fancy and well-funded as it is now.
But thanks to Lynn Williams and those around him, Ragin’ Cajun athletes from days gone by frequently were none the wiser.
“We were never without,” said Gerald Broussard, a former UL football player and assistant coach. “And that took a lot, a lot, of effort to bring all that stuff around
“We didn’t have the biggest staff in the world, but we didn’t know it. I mean, we were treated like kings by him and his people.”
UL’s athletic equipment room, however, has a big void now.
Williams, 56, passed away Wednesday night at his Lafayette home.
Lynn Williams (Photo: RaginCajuns.com/Russ DeSantis Photography)
A UL equipment manager since 1985, Williams got his start at the school as a student manager in 1980.
His loss is being mourned by many connected to the UL athletic department, especially former players like ex-NFL quarterback Jake Delhomme.
“I was honored to be close to Big Lynn,” said Delhomme, who played for four NFL teams including New Orleans and Carolina and a couple of teams in Europe during his lengthy pro career.
“At any place I’ve played at … everybody knew the equipment manager, and knew him well, because he saw, heard, everything, in the locker room.
“But the thing that made Lynny so different was that he cared about one thing, and one thing only, and that was if he was doing his job well enough and making sure you were OK,” Delhomme added. “And that was anybody. It didn’t matter who you were. That’s just the way Lynny was.”
Delhomme stayed close to Williams long after his Cajuns career ended in 1996, and he knew Williams’ unique personality well.
“He was very quick to put you in your place and give you a one-liner and joke with you, but also he was probably the most-sincere human being you’ll ever meet,” Delhomme told The Daily Advertiser. “And it’s so easy to say stuff when someone’s gone. But he knew that, before — that that’s how he was.”
Delhomme can picture himself walking through the side entrance of the Cajun locker room area, and — like so many UL athletes have over the years — going to “see Big Lynn.”
“To go hit him, joke with him, do something silly with him,” Delhomme said. “That’s what you look forward to doing.
“He could dish it, man. I mean, that’s what I think I’m gonna miss the most. We were so hard on each other — just like he was without everybody else. He had a story about you; he knew your history. The smack talk he would dish out and take — it was great.”
Broussard, who will be one of Williams' pall bearers, knows.
“We were friends. We grew up together,” he said. “He had a playful mentality … and he always liked to play.”
But there was a serious side, too.
“At times he felt like sometimes people didn’t treat his managers the way he wanted them treated,” Broussard said. “He was very, very protective of his managers — and wanted them treated with the utmost respect.”
That was especially so when Williams brought female student workers into the football equipment room.
“He demanded that they were treated with respect,” Broussard said.
And when the student managers were properly recognized for all they did?
“When they were taken care of, and shown respect,” Delhomme said, “he would literally tear up, because it meant the world to him.”
'BEYOND A HUGE LOSS'
For years and years, Williams worked with UL’s football team, including time shared with both his brother Lyle Williams, who later worked at Tulane, and with late Cajuns equipment manager Bill “Blackjack” Landry.
“Him and Blackjack were such a team all those years,” Delhomme said.
In more-recent seasons — beset by health issues that limited his mobility, and after Kerry Conner’s appointment as UL’s director of equipment operations for football — Williams primarily oversaw the needs of the Cajuns’ Olympic sport programs.
But he’s always had a hand in dealing with multiple UL teams, even when full-time staffing was sparse.
“He had a picture of himself in his office stringing up the glove, the catcher’s mitt, at the (College) World Series,” Broussard said, referencing UL’s 2000 trip to Omaha for the CWS.
“He took care of the baseball team. He took care of the softball team. He took care of everybody. He ordered more stuff in the university than anybody, from coaches’ gear to practice gear for every sport.
“Now there’s a lot more personnel. … But he was servicing all the sports,” Broussard said. “He was almost a one-man gang. And every coach … demanded his attention, and he tried as best he could to make them feel like they were his No. 1 priority.”
Mark Hudspeth, UL’s head football coach from 2011 through 2017, shared fond memories of Williams and his work with the Advertiser.
“I can still see him sitting right under the goal post in the Superdome in 2011 as Brett Baer’s field goal flew over his head,” Hudspeth said Wednesday night, referencing UL’s 32-30 New Orleans Bowl win over San Diego State in New Orleans. “Our prayers are with his family.
“Lynn loved UL athletics and was committed to helping all the student-athletes for all sports.
“I really appreciated him always going the extra mile to make sure our players were taken of,” added Hudspeth, now the head coach at Austin Peay University in Tennessee. “He has left a great legacy to go along with the other great equipment managers of the past like Blackjack Landry and will be missed.”
Landry, who passed in 1998, served at UL from 1963 until the time of death.
In 2012, an 8-foot bronze statue of Landry was dedicated and unveiled at Cajun Field. It’s the only statue that stands at the stadium.
“The greatest guy you'll ever meet,” Williams said of Landry at the time it went up. “He had a heart of gold.”
Now it’s Williams being remembered, including in these Twitter posts:
►Former Cajuns and NFL receiver Brandon Stokley, and the son of late UL football coach Nelson Stokley: “Lynn Williams a man that I loved and meant a great deal to me. … I spent countless hours with him during football season. Some of my favorite memories growing up were taking road trips to away games. He was a special, special man.”
►UL video operations assistant director Darren Walker: “Ragin’ Cajuns Athletics was built with the blood, sweat and tears from the unsung heroes like Lynn.”
►Ex-Cajun Damon Mason, who had a longtime Arena Football League playing career: “RIP to a True Ragin Cajun Legend I am forever grateful for the love & passion you showed us crazy young Ragin Cajuns & the respect you gave as we departed Cajun Land & came back to visit! Much love & respect always”
Delhomme compared Williams to the director of operations at “Grand Central Station.” He knew where everything came from, and everywhere it went.
“This is beyond a huge loss,” Delhomme said.
“Anything needed done, to know how to do it, who to contact — it was always Big Lynn. And just meticulous in his work. Very detailed in his work. Very organized.
“Besides every athlete he ever touched at UL,” he added, “every coach, every assistant coach, every trainer, every equipment manager, everybody in any service industry that provided some service to the athletic complex — everybody knew Big Lynn.”
'EVERYTHING WAS THERE'
Williams didn’t always work with the biggest budget in college sports.
In fact, he never did.
Yet, he overcame at a program that now has a lucrative apparel deal with Adidas.
“He ran a thin operation, but we were classy. That’s kind of the way Lynn was,” Delhomme said. “He wanted to make sure everything was done in a professional manner, a courteous manner, and done with respect.”
Despite the tight purse strings, Williams made the most of what he did have to deal with it.
He was an innovator, too, and in 2009 he won the Glenn Sharp Award, presented to the National Equipment Manager of the Year by the Athletic Equipment Managers Association.
“Back in the day, the snaps (used to hold helmet chinstraps) would break all the time, and you had to use a screwdriver to get it off,” Broussard said. “Lynn rigged some kind of way to be able to change the snap out, to where you didn’t lose a play.”
Williams did it all, right down to teaching players how to properly tie their shoes.
“It was so much more than washing clothes and putting away our laundry,” Broussard said.
And player safety was as important to Williams as good uniform looks.
“He fit people properly, making sure all your joints were covered and that your helmet fit right and that it was the right helmet and you had the right equipment,” Broussard said.
“I look back to the equipment we had when I first got there as a freshman in ’79 … and how everything has evolved, and he was part of that evolution nationally.
“The other thing was the pride in which he and all of the people that ran through him — the student managers, his assists — took in setting up the locker room,” Broussard said. “When you came into the locker room on game day, it was second to none.”
Everything had a place in Williams’ room.
“Every helmet was re-striped. Every helmet was polished,” Broussard said. “You had certain gum in your locker. Your socks were laid out. Everything was there.”
According to Williams' obituary: Funeral services will be held 11 a.m. Tuesday in Our Savior’s Church, 1201 East Broussard in Lafayette. Visitation will be observed Monday from 4-9 p.m. and Tuesday from 9 a.m. until time of service at Our Savior’s Church. "Lynn was a loving and caring person that lived his life for family and the University of Louisiana. The Williams family would like to ask all friends to wear UL attire."
Athletic Network Footnote by Dr. Ed Dugas.