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Faculty, staff and students at Bruton High School are mourning the loss of one of their own after Bruton Softball Coach Danny Williams died on Wednesday from cancer.
Williams, who finished his third season as Bruton’s softball coach in the spring, was initially diagnosed with prostate cancer last year. Treatments proved ineffective, however, as the cancer spread throughout his body.
The passing of Williams is the most recent in what has been a tough stretch for Bruton athletics.
In September, Bruton assistant football coach Kevin Brooks died unexpectedly at the age of 46, while former Bruton cheerleader Shelby Pressley died in a car crash in November.
“This is the third situation we’ve had within our family,” said Bruton Athletic Director Richard Onesty. “We’ll be resilient, but it’s hard right now at the moment.”
Williams was Onesty’s first coaching hire when he took over as Bruton’s athletic director in 2012. And despite being tasked with turning around a struggling Bruton softball program, Williams always did so with a smile on his face – win or lose.
More important than any win or loss, Williams was a major influence on the players he coached over his three seasons with Bruton.
DaSha Hill, currently a freshman softball player for Louisburg College, had nothing but praise for her former coach of six years, predating her time as a Bruton Panther.
“He was literally the best coach I’ve ever had,” she told WYDaily. “He just wanted what was best for us. He wanted us to win, but he wanted us to also have fun. He always put his players before himself.”
Hill said she woke up to nearly 30 text messages Thursday morning from former Bruton and travel softball teammates all expressing sadness over the loss of their former coach.
The sadness felt by former players extends to Bruton’s current athletic department, and especially Onesty, who was approached by Williams last year with his initial diagnosis.
“At that point it was business as usual,” Onesty said. “He was just going to be having some treatments and scans on a periodic basis.”
The cancer progressively worsened over the next year, as treatments failed to subdue the cancer, which became increasingly aggressive and began to spread.
With his health trending downward and doctors proposing a new series of treatments, Williams approached Onesty in the second week of October to discuss his resignation as the head softball coach at Bruton.
Onesty said he knew Williams’ prognosis was bad, but did not realize how bad it actually was. The same went for Hill, who recalled a conversation she had with Williams during her junior year.
“He told me he just wanted to see me play through my senior season,” she said. “I was really confused at first. I think he knew he wasn’t doing well, so his time was eventually going to come.”
Williams got his wish and was able to see Hill play well enough to commit to Louisburg College, a junior college in Louisburg, N.C.
And while Hill said she was upset at Williams not being able to see her play in her first college game, she was also grateful to have been able to spend as much time with Williams as she did over the years.
“He meant a lot to me,” she said. “Everything I do from here on out is for him.”