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Don Williams, Long-time Jets Writer, Did It His Way

Posted by Randy Lange on September 4, 2011 – 3:15 pm

Seasoned readers of New York Jets coverage in the Newark, N.J., Star-Ledger will be saddened to hear that Don Williams, the team’s long-time beatwriter into the mid-Nineties, died Thursday after a short illness. He was 79.

I sat next to Don for a couple of seasons along the “Jersey wall” of the old pressroom at the Jets’ former Hofstra University headquarters when I started covering the Jets as a beatwriter in 1994. He was a venerable newspaperman of five decades, with the Long Island Press before coming to the Ledger. In the Sixties he covered the Giants, and so covered a certain young, hard-working tight end Joe Walton. Don moved on to the Jets beat and was there to cover Walton again when he took over as Jets head coach from 1983-89.

Don had a staccato writing style and a serious demeanor but he was a passionate man who had time to break me in with invaluable advice during a period when the Jets were headed down before they headed back up. He had a fondness for Leo Durocher and the Brooklyn Dodgers, Frank Sinatra, and the Island. He’ll be missed.

The Williams wake will be held Monday at Donohue-Cecere Funeral Home, 290 Post Ave., Westbury, N.Y., and the funeral will be held the next day at Holy Rood Cemetery in Westbury. We send our condolences to Don’s family.

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Posted in Randy Lange | 24 Comments »

24 Responses to “Don Williams, Long-time Jets Writer, Did It His Way”

  1. By Jet Fan Since '64 Tom on Sep 4, 2011 | Reply

    Sorry to hear about Don, he was great back in the day. But great that he was cool enough to mentor you, Randy. Well, folks no one likes to hear bad news but I’ll offer some just so you don’t think I’m some one-note optimist. I think we have a shot of…going 8-8 this yr and missing the playoffs. I hope not, but I can see it happening. If it had only been one big thing — the shakeup at WR, for instance — I could see us overcoming it. But if we don’t seriously address this depth problem at OL and unless McKnight and Powell pick up the slack for LT, who looks like he’s done, I can see the O performing even worse than last yr. I also don’t understand how with a whole yr to deal with it we basically did nothing at S. And…(continued.)…

  2. By Jet Fan Since '64 Tom on Sep 4, 2011 | Reply

    …and we’re asking some very green LBs to plug these huge holes in the middle of our field on D when we’ve already got a couple of iffy vets (Thomas and to a lesser extent Scott) at that position. Mind you, I’m all for turning over positions by way of youth, like we’re doing at DL and LB. But like that anonymous NFL exec said about Sanchez last yr when he hit a slump, you don’t usually work in new guys and put them under the gun to win the SB in only a yr or 2. At this pt I think Rex and Mr T are reaching, we’re picking up ancient vets (Mason, Plax) and somehow expecting them to mesh with guys who’ve never played to get us to IND in Feb. I suppose it can be done but I’ve never seen it happen, so at this pt I’m a bit skeptical. But GO JETS!

  3. By Jet Fan Since '64 Tom on Sep 4, 2011 | Reply

    Just had a talk with Arte, who’s of course the eternal optimist. But I’m still not sold on this mixture of aggressive and uneventful moves over the last few months. In fact, what I’m sensing from the Jets now, more so than in Rex’s first two years, is something that I never like to see on my radar: DESPERATION. I’ve been wrong before but…

  4. By Hans on Sep 4, 2011 | Reply

    Uhhh, no. We do not go 8-8 and miss the playoffs. Did you forget that Plaxico has actually MADE it to the big stage before? And are you going to compare EVERYONE to Sanchez, because that is not fair to Mauga and McIntyre. How do you know what kind of year they’re going to have? Do you have a crystal ball? If so, send it to me! I have some questions of my own I want to ask!

  5. By Jet Fan Since '64 Tom on Sep 4, 2011 | Reply

    I don’t KNOW anything for sure, Hans, but I’ve taken a lot more heat on this site for saying we’re going to make it to the AFC championship game again than I have for scaling back expectations. And at this point I don’t think a team with an inconsistent QB, two unproven out of 4 RBs and one fading fast, zero vet depth on the O line, two new DL guys one of whom might get deported in November, iffy LBs to some extent with only a few rookies to help out there, and fairly weak guys at S is such a lock to do anything. I hope I’m wrong but at this point I agree with folks who say Rex sounds a little off when he calls this “the strongest roster he’s had here.” Oh, and I forgot — a nail-biter of a guy at K!

  6. By Gregg from CA on Sep 4, 2011 | Reply

    Well, it just wouldn’t be a Jets’ season if Tom wasn’t gloomy about at least SOME of the things that have gone on! Don’t worry, Hans – Tom is a “The glass is half-broken” kind of guy.

    I’d have to agree that some of this weekend’s moves have been head scratchers, especially based on the preceeding comments about the players involved. We can calmly let Lowery go because Trufant is back, but wait … not anymore, he ain’t back. Not that I care especially about Trufant, it was just an easy example.

    Once again, I’ll be an observer and see what happens, but the part that I’ll agree with Tom (and many others) about is that I have very little confidence / optimism. I’ll keep HOPING, but ain’t no chicken counting going on.

  7. By wayne on Sep 4, 2011 | Reply

    Condolences to Mr. Williams’ family……………………..I will not predict a 500 season, but I don’t see Jets coming near a division title. They are one of the best teams in the AFC, but running game is in question. WR will be hard pressed to stay healthy and we don’t know how MS will respond to carrying a bigger load….He’s gonna have to be lead horse this year.. Which direction team is headed in will become clearer, one way or the other,at the halfway mark…….If they’re winning early it will be because of outstanding defense, which is not exactly going out on a limb…….New England is markedly improved the Jets have taken some steps backward talentwise………………..We’re going to find out exactly MS is this year.

  8. By GaryC on Sep 4, 2011 | Reply

    jet fan tom, now plastico and stone mason are ancient,those guys got thrown under the bus before the season starts,glad you are seeing it my way.I said the jets would cut young receivers because of these two on the team and I was right.would of liked to see campbell and dipalma get more of a shot.

  9. By Clarke W. Griswald on Sep 4, 2011 | Reply

    PUMP, THE, BRAKES! Everyone take it easy, because when the jets get hot in the middle of the season… there’s no turning back. I honestly believe, and i’ve never said this before, that this is the year. I want to put 100 dollars on it now, I honestly think the Jets are gonna crack the curse and win it all this year. Sanchez is ready, Rex has been ready. I really think, this is it you guys. It’s been too long now, the Saints did it, now it’s our turn, get ready.

  10. By jimmy on Sep 4, 2011 | Reply

    I remember Don Williams. In 1991, I was a freshman at a blue-collar Catholic school in NJ. When we had a free period, there was a choice between going to the cafeteria and sitting in the library. Almost everyone went to the cafeteria, but I hated the other kids, so I went to the library. In the back, they’d keep the newspapers on a rack. They didn’t stock any New York papers; all they had was the Star-Ledger and the Record. So I’d go to the rack and pull out the Ledger sports section. Then I’d start scanning for Don’s face above the byline. Just seeing it thrilled me because I knew that for the next few minutes, I’d have the only enjoyment I’d have all day. That went on for years. Got me through many a trying day. Thanks, Don.

  11. By Jet Fan Tom Since '64 on Sep 5, 2011 | Reply

    Without Meriweather, the whole DB picture looks weird to me. We lost Lowery, Coleman, and Digs and added nobody of consequence. Losing any 1 woulda been no problem but all 3? And then the only DBs we promoted are Wilson, who shoulda played more last yr, and Cook at S, where Cimiini says we don’t like to pay. Explain to me how this makes for “the strongest roster” Rex has ever had at DB. Looks to me like we just unloaded guys without any strategy for adding any and are now praying other guys we’ve had will step up. And that includes Leonhard, who I was ready to relegate to part-time play even before he got hurt because his smarts and desire fail to make up for his size. I don’t begin to see how this can be called a SB-worthy secondary.

  12. By Jet Fan Tom Since '64 on Sep 5, 2011 | Reply

    That’s funny, Gregg, this summer I’ve mostly been accused of being too optimistic. Note GaryC’s post just now, for instance, praising me for taking a dimmer view of the Mason and Plax pickups. And then you admit you’re not too optimistic yourself. I feel like a politician torn between two wings of the party, and I haven’t even heard from scjoe yet. Well, the thing is for me, the aggregate effect of all these trouble spots is starting to worry me. Rex doesn’t sound very realistic and Mr T doesn’t seem very active and I don’t get it. Of course, Arte keeps telling me we’re gonna win the SB even if Brunell has to start, so maybe I should just shut up and believe. But I started to sour on blind, unreasoning faith after the KC playoff loss….

  13. By wayne on Sep 5, 2011 | Reply

    CWGriswald, I’ll take that bet….

  14. By ACriscuolo on Sep 5, 2011 | Reply

    Also sorry to hear of the passing of Don WIlliams. A great writer and a very nice guy. When I graduated college and was looking to get into sports journalism, a friend of mine put me in touch with Don He took the time to speak with me and helped put me in touch with guys at the Star Ledger. I ended up getting a gig at the Star Ledger in the scholastic sports department down in Springfield.

    My condolences to his family. Don, see what you can do from upstairs to help get these Jets over the hump. God Bless.

  15. By GaryC on Sep 5, 2011 | Reply

    to jet fan tom, we have three unproven backs if you put shonn greene in there,and I do.let’s see him rush for 1,000 yards like martin used to do.how have you forgotten the all pro donald strickland to that list of new deepbacks we have gotten.another guy who isn’t good enough to last longer than a couple of years on one team.what is his age by now, yeah, he fits in to the over the hill gang.

  16. By Jet Fan Tom Since '64 on Sep 5, 2011 | Reply

    Yes, GaryC, I admit I forgot Strickland, a hanger-on who can’t go 3 games without getting injured. Barely worth mentioning and no help at S, of course. The guy from San Diego we needed was Weddle.

  17. By kw65Fan on Sep 5, 2011 | Reply

    Boy, you guys sure picture a doom and gloom season. Why watch the games then and get disappointed and scream for changes and start the chants “goodbye Rex”. I know I started the chant already “2012…2012″ for Marks head if he doesn’t improve more so this year but the whole team…Geez. I know, we’re NY Jet fans and want and deserve the best. But i sit here this Sunday afternoon all depressed now after reading these downturned blogs…but i know better. We will still have the top 5 defense and after firing the OC, we’ll have a top ten offense…something HE has never brought to the table during his tenure here as a OC. LT out of gas..??? How many times did he carry the ball in Pre season…less than 10 times..sure showed a lot there

  18. By kw65Fan on Sep 5, 2011 | Reply

    Like kill the guy before season starts. Mason is our JCo…little older but guess what…faster and never injured…that spells a lot. Plax….I give him few games to get going…and he will be a force to reckon with. Those down on Greene…give me a break. He has shown a lot last two seasons as a part time runner. I guess so easy to forget what he did in playoffs especially against the Pat’s. Eternal optimism is certainly not here but then as Jet fans we have seen it…been there and overall disappointed. Sure, first couple games may be sloppy….every team will be that way with no off-season conditioning…but we’ll be in the mix.

  19. By GaryC on Sep 5, 2011 | Reply

    to the people who scoffed at me when I suggested at one time that slauson would be a tackle at one time with jets it might be sooner than you think depending on who gets injured,he played all line positions at nebraska and with jets thin at tackle,and with the two new guys they brought in to the interior of line they are ready if need be to move slauson over.I said Ducasse would only be a guard.that being said it was funny when I heard buttle and Ian eagle saying ducasse has trouble understanding english,he being of Haitian heritage,Kinda sounds like he needs to be closer to the quarterback,like maybe a guard.

  20. By Perryg on Sep 5, 2011 | Reply

    Sorry to hear of the passing of Don WIlliams. I am REALLY annoyed about this Maybin situation. This guy is lightening off the edge. Haven’t had that in green and white since John Abraham. I just don’t understand keeping a linebacker that showed zero pass rush ability over someone who did, especially when we have to rely so much on the blitz to get pressure. For what? Kevin O’Connell and asecond team center! Terrible decision…Maybin will be a cowboy, patriot, or dolphin by mid-week…!

  21. By Jet Fan Tom Since '64 on Sep 5, 2011 | Reply

    Let’s talk about our Top 10 O — which is the minimum for a team that’s gonna win the SB, kw65 — after we actually have the stats to back it up, much less after Schotty is fired. I agree with you about Mason to an extent and more so about Greene, but we need to come out fast for a change, especially on O. What I didn’t expect this yr, even with the strike, was so little depth at so many positions. At DB, for instance, we really couldn’t afford to lose anybody without bringing in somebody a lot better than Strickland. And LT looked done last yr. GaryC, I’ll admit, with the lack of depth at O line, just about anything’s possible. Perryg, I’m not as upset re Maybin but I agree that picking up O’Connell and that green C is pointless.

  22. By Kevin Williams on Sep 6, 2011 | Reply

    Mr. Lange,

    I am Don’s son and wish to express sincere appreciation for your kind words about my dad. (My childhood memories of being able to hang out with players and coaches from the Giants, and then later the Jets, are among my fondest.)

    Best wishes to you, the Jets organization and the fans.

    Kevin Williams

  23. By Randy Lange on Sep 6, 2011 | Reply

    Kevin, it’s good to hear from you and we offer our condolences again to you and your family.

  24. By Jet Fan Tom Since '64 on Sep 7, 2011 | Reply

    Hey Kevin, very sorry to hear about your dad, he was one of the first people I ever read to learn what pro football’s all about when he was at the Long Island Press. Rochester is a great town, I used to go see my relatives there in West Henrietta for almost 30 years running starting in 1960, so I hope everything is great up there for you and yours. I hereby dedicate the 2011 season to your dad — who would be the first to say that we need to come out strong on Sunday night!

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