Longtime equipment manager Lynn Williams epitomized the Ragin’ Cajun work ethic
LAFAYETTE – UL’s athletic department lost a lot more than an equipment manager in March of 2019 when Lynn Williams passed away at the way-too-early age of 56.
The Ragin’ Cajuns lost a big man with an even bigger heart, a big sense of humor and an even bigger work ethic, and a huge sense of devotion and commitment to the only job he ever held or cared about.
“The thing that made Lynn 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,” said former Cajun and NFL quarterback standout and long-time friend Jake Delhomme. “And that was anybody, it didn’t matter who you were. It wasn’t just every athlete he ever touched, it was every person he ever touched.”
Williams served on the UL equipment staff for nearly four decades, beginning as a student manager in 1980, and was the supervisor of that department for the great majority of those years … during which time he became much more than a guy who passed out equipment, wisecracks and wisdom in equal quantities.
“We didn’t have the biggest staff in the world, but we didn’t know it,” said Gerald Broussard, who had the opportunity to see both sides as a former player and a former coach in the UL football program and now serves as radio analyst. “I mean, we were treated like kings by him and his people. We were never without, and in a lot of the time he was here that took a lot, and I mean a lot of effort to make that happen.”
Those four decades of devotion to duty, not to mention the minute details that made Williams a beloved figure for thousands of former Cajun student-athletes, insured this year’s honor of induction into the UL Athletics Hall of Fame.
Williams was elevated to a full-time position upon his graduation in 1985, and served the rest of his life as head equipment manager and supervisor of equipment until his passing.
“I was honored to be so close to Lynn,” Delhomme said. “At any place I’ve played at, everybody knew the equipment manager and knew him well because he saw and heard everything. The difference was Big Lynn always went the extra mile. Whatever needed done, he knew how to do it, who to contact. It was always him. There were so many things that he did, outside of the budget, that nobody knows about. He did it for his workers, his players, all of them were his kids.”
Williams was also on the forefront of athletic equipment nationally, being named three times as the National Athletic Equipment Managers Association’s Equipment Manager of the Year in District 4 in 2002, 2005 and 2009. In 2009, he also won that organization’s Glenn Sharp Award, signifying the nation’s Equipment Manager of the Year.
“Back in the day, our helmet snaps would break all the time and you had to use a screwdriver to get it off,” Broussard said. “Lynn rigged some way to be able to change the snap out, to where you didn’t miss a play. That was a big deal that not too many people except the players and coaches realized. When you look at the equipment when I first got there (1979) and how everything evolved, he was part of that evolution nationally.”
It wasn’t just football, especially in Williams’ early years when UL didn’t have its current staffing levels. One picture that Williams had in a prominent place next to his desk was him stringing up a catcher’s mitt in the dugout at the 2000 College World Series.
But Williams’ biggest source of pride may have been his football locker room, both in his home facility and when the Cajuns would go on the road.
“When you came into the locker room on game day,” Broussard said, “it was second to none. Every helmet was restriped and polished until it just shone. You had certain gum in your locker. Your socks were laid out precisely. Everything was there, everything was perfect, and that was because Lynn cared.”
“Just meticulous in his work, very detailed and very organized,” Delhomme said. “Every coach, every assistant coach, every trainer, every equipment manager, everybody in any service industry that provided something to the athletic department and athletic complex, they all knew and they all appreciated Big Lynn.”
Williams had already been an integral part of the football program for 30 years before he saw his squad reach – and win—a Division I bowl game.
“I can still see him sitting right under the goal post in the Superdome as Brett Baer’s kick flew over his head,” said former UL football Mark Hudspeth, referencing 2011’s 32-30 win over San Diego State in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl on Baer’s final-play 50-yard field goal. “Lynn loved UL athletics and he was committed to helping all student-athletes in all sports. I really appreciated him always going the extra mile to make sure our players were taken care of.”
The work always got done, but those who were close to the lifetime Lafayette resident knew a different side.
“He was very quick to put you in your place,” Delhomme said. “He’d give you a one-liner and joke with you, but he was also probably the most sincere human being you’ll ever meet. To go hit him, joke with him, do something silly with him, that’s what you looked forward to doing. We were so hard on each other. He could dish it back, man, and that’s what I miss the most.
“Lynn Williams made people happy. He made me happy.”
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