Jerry Williams (American football)

Jerome Ralph Williams (November 1, 1923 – December 31, 1998) was an American football player and coach who served as the head coach of two Canadian Football League (CFL) teams, as well as the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League (NFL).

Jerry Williams
Black and white photograph of Williams in a light colored shirt and dark tie sitting with his crossed arms propped on a desk
Williams in 1960
No. 33, 22, 49
Position:Running back, defensive back
Personal information
Born:(1923-11-11)November 11, 1923
Spokane, Washington
Died:December 31, 1998(1998-12-31) (aged 75)
Chandler, Arizona
Height:5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
Weight:175 lb (79 kg)
Career information
High school:Spokane (WA) North Central
College:Washington State, Idaho
NFL Draft:1949 / Round: 7 / Pick: 63
Career history
As player:
As coach:
Head coaching record
Regular season:CFL: 71–55–2 (.563)
NFL: 7–22–2 (.258)
College: 6–23 (.207)
Postseason:CFL: 7–8 (.467)
Career:CFL: 78–63–2 (.552)
NFL: 7–22–2 (.258)
College: 6–23 (.207)
Player stats at PFR
Coaching stats at PFR

Early lifeEdit

Williams was a native of Spokane, Washington. He attended North Central High School where he was an all-city running back and All-Inland Empire Athlete of the Year (1942) as a three-sport athlete. Graduating in 1942, Williams enrolled at the University of Idaho, but with the war efforts building he made the decision to join his older brother, William H. Williams (eventual Chief Justice of the Washington State Supreme Court) in the United States Army Air Corps. Williams became a fighter pilot flying P-38's in the Pacific theater. One of his most notable missions was as a fighter escort to both Japanese and American dignitaries traveling to Tokyo Bay and the peace signing on the USS Missouri in 1945. Returning from the war efforts, Williams enrolled at Washington State University, where he played both offense and defensive halfback for the Cougars from 1946 to 1948. He set the Pacific Coast Conference kickoff return record and led the Cougars in total offense in his senior season at WSU. Most notable was a punt return of 97 yards against Oregon in 1947 and kickoff returns of 88 and 87 yards against Montana and California. In Williams' senior season (1948) he earned All-Coast honors accumulating 1,500 all-purpose yards. He participated in both the East–West Shrine Game and College All-Star Classic before joining the Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League (NFL).

Professional careerEdit

Playing careerEdit

Drafted in the seventh round of the 1949 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams, Williams played four seasons with the team, seeing most of his action as a defensive back. During his first three seasons the Rams made three consecutive trips to the NFL title game winning the 1951 NFL Championship.

In his first season Williams intercepted five passes. The most memorable image of his Rams career however came in the 1951 regular season finale against the Green Bay Packers on December 16. Following a missed Packer field goal Williams returned the attempt 99 yards for a touchdown, a record that stood until the 1971 season when Williams coached, Al Nelson had a 102-yard missed field goal return, when rule changes allowed for missed field goal attempts into the end zone to be returned.

Williams' desire to play on the offensive side of the ball led to his request to be traded and on May 12, 1953, Williams was sent to the Philadelphia Eagles. He proceeded to lead the Eagles in total offense during his first season and in his two years caught 75 passes, rushed for over 500 yards and scored eight touchdowns. Williams served in the capacity of player-coach in 1954 before leaving the playing field for the coaching ranks.

Coaching careerEdit

Officially entering the coaching ranks the following year Williams became the head coach at the University of Montana where in three seasons his teams, while known for their competitiveness went 6–21 overall. Football wasn't the only endeavor that led to close calls for Williams as he escaped with his life on two separate occasions during harrowing crash landings of small aircraft. While piloting a private plane on May 24, 1956, Williams and assistant Lauri Niemi were knocked unconscious in a crash near the Idaho/Montana border when they were forced, through bad weather, to attempt a landing on a rural mountain road. And again on October 3, 1957, Williams with 14 of his players, while en route to Provo, Utah to face the Brigham Young Cougars, were forced down for yet another emergency landing.

After the 1957 season Williams returned to Philadelphia to serve as the Philadelphia Eagles defensive back coach under head coach Buck Shaw with the team capturing the 1960 NFL Championship in a thrilling 17–13 victory over Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers. It was also during this season that Williams came up with one of his most notable contributions to the game devising the "nickel" defensive scheme, a scheme still employed by most football programs today. Shaw retired after the 1960 season but new coach Nick Skorich kept Williams on his staff until their dismissal at the conclusion of the 1963 NFL season.

New ownership and the arrival of a new coach and general manager in Joe Kuharich led to Williams accepting an assistant coaching position with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League (CFL). Shortly after the conclusion of the 1964 season Williams was elevated to head coach and compiled a 40–23–1 record over the next four years. Earning CFL Coach of the Year honors in 1967 William's teams reached the playoffs three times and competed in the 1968 Grey Cup (the first time in 19 years)

On May 9, 1969, after another ownership change in Philadelphia, Williams was hired as the Eagles new head coach but endured a 7–22–2 record during his short two-year tenure. After dropping the first three games of the 1971 NFL season Williams was released, replaced by Ed Khayat, and finished the 1971 season as an assistant with the Cleveland Browns.

On January 19, 1972, Williams returned to the CFL when he was named head coach of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. In just his first season the Ti-Cats reached the pinnacle of Canadian Professional football winning the Grey Cup in a 13–10 thriller over the Western Conference champion Saskatchewan Roughriders. Williams resigned after four seasons with the Tiger-Cats on December 12, 1975 following a 5–10–1 season. In his four years with Hamilton, Williams compiled a 30–29–1 record and a Grey Cup title.

After briefly turning to ranching in Arizona Williams made one last foray into football returning as offensive coordinator with the Calgary Stampeders. He was later promoted to head coach on October 5, 1981 upon the firing of Ardell Wiegandt but once again retired from coaching football following that season, finishing out the 1981 season with a 1-3 record (the Stampeders finished 6-10 overall). He returned to Arizona to become part owner in a flight charter service and enjoy retirement in Prescott and later, Chandler.


In 1990 Jerry was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia and spent two months in the hospital eventually making a full recovery. By 1998 however his health began to fail and on December 31 he died at his home in Chandler, Arizona with his wife, middle son and youngest daughter by his side.

Head coaching recordEdit


Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Montana Grizzlies (Skyline Conference) (1955–1957)
1955 Montana 3–7 2–4 6th
1956 Montana 1–9 1–6 8th
1957 Montana 2–7 2–5 T–6th
Montana: 6–23 5–15
Total: 6–23

See alsoEdit