Former player pivots to coaching after suffering paralysis from T-9 spinal injury

Reporter: Zach Oliveri Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:

Pledge Williams played for the Florida Stingrays football team in Southwest Florida before an injury paralyzed him.

But Williams is overcoming the odds and the obstacles to stay involved with the game he loves.

Pledge Williams talking to a player during practice. CREDIT: WINK News

Marines are taught to adapt and overcome obstacles. Williams loved playing football, but like a marine, staying involved with the team meant adapting and overcoming.

So, Williams did that by pivoting into a coaching role for the Florida Stingrays.

Williams, once a student of the game, has now become a teacher. And from his scooter, Williams will get the Florida Stingrays ready for their upcoming season.

Florida Stingrays football practice. CREDIT: WINK News

“This coaching has really brought light into my life,” Williams said.

Coach Williams was a linebacker and cornerback, positions he had never played before, in 2019 before his injury.

Pledge Williams as a player on the Stingrays, before his injury. CREDIT: Pledge Williams

Williams was getting ready for his second season when he suffered his injury.

Williams suffered a T-9 spinal injury after getting shot in the back, paralyzing him from the waist down.

“When I got shot, the first thing I thought about was dying,” Williams said. “When I got out the hospital… One of my lowest darkest points of my life. Ever. I didn’t want to eat. I didn’t want to get out of the bed sometimes. It was just a dark place for me because I didn’t know what life had ahead of me after the injury.”

Since the injury, he’s been working and going to physical therapy three times a week, all to try and walk again.

Through all the uncertainty, Williams knew, God had a plan for him.

“If I can’t play it I’m going to coach it. And I’m going to show the world that no matter what predicament you in you can still do what you want to do,” Williams said.

Coach Williams is the offensive coordinator for the Stingrays, so during warmups, he’s looking at every detail of his team.

And right before the kickoff, he gives the Stingrays’ offense their pregame speech.

Pledge Williams watching the players at practice. CREDIT: WINK News

Williams goes down the sideline imploring his team to give it their all on the field.

For Jacquayle Blanks, the Stingrays quarterback, Williams will always be a friend first.

“It’s hard because it’s like that’s my brother and I have to look at him as a coach now,” Blanks said.

“If somebody run the wrong play, he’ll throw the hat, and everybody know he’s gonna be mad then. And then the next play, we gotta run it right,” Blanks said.

Coach Williams aspires to be like another Southwest Florida athlete turned coach, like Deion Sanders.

“Imma be the next Coach Prime riding around on the sidelines in this scooter. Give me my theme music,” Williams said.

Coach Williams started his career with the Stingrays with a 28 to 7 win. He told WINK News he’s going to keep coaching even after he recovers.

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