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Family, friends mourn loss of humble, lovable Pooh Bear Williams

Pooh Bear Williams’ smile was warm and friendly. His running style was not. Defenses loathed trying to wrap up the oversized Florida State tailback, but Williams quickly became a fan favorite in the mid-1990s.

Clarence “Pooh Bear” Williams, who scored 17 touchdowns at FSU from 1993-97, died on Thursday in a car accident. The 47-year-old Williams was the head coach at Crescent City for about five years and got back into coaching in 2021 as Palatka High’s defensive backs coach in 2021, Palatka coach Patrick Turner said. 

“When I say everybody loved him, everybody loved him,” Turner told the Osceola. “I never met anybody who said a bad word about him. The kids loved him. The coaches loved him. He was just a really good person. In every one of our pictures that we have of him, he always had an arm around the kid. That’s what he did. He would yell at them, he would coach them up. But he’d always put an arm around him, build him back up, coach him, teach him, tell him what he did wrong and try to correct it. Just a super good human being.”

Turner said Williams was set to take over as defensive coordinator for the 2022 season. Williams was a manager at a Winn Dixie in Crescent City but spent afternoons and evenings with the Palatka team. While Williams made a name for himself as a running back, he understood blocking schemes well and Turner said he could have coached any position on offense or defense. “He could talk high level football with anybody,” Turner said. “Just a really, really smart person.”

Williams arrived at 240 pounds and kept growing in his time at FSU, scoring three touchdowns during FSU’s national championship season in 1993. He added 12 touchdowns in 1995. In the middle of FSU’s dynasty run, Williams was a big part of it and his touchdowns were celebrated with a chorus of “Pooh” throughout Doak Campbell Stadium.

“Pooh Bear and Warrick Dunn were something at the goal line,” longtime FSU running backs coach Billy Sexton said. “Pooh Bear would run right through that defense. He was 275 (pounds) and could run a 4.7 40 with good hands. He had some unbelievable games. He was easy to coach. Always had a smile on his face and was a heck of a fullback.”

Said defensive end Peter Boulware: “He was a great player but more importantly an incredible teammate. He will be missed. Our prayers are with his family and friends.”

Turner said Williams was “a very humble guy.” Palatka’s players knew he had played at FSU and won a national championship. But Williams was focused on the development of the players.

“He didn’t talk about it a whole lot,” Turner said. “Didn’t talk a whole lot about himself, didn’t talk about where he had been. It was never about him. But the kids knew it. And obviously they respected it. Just a very unique, dynamic personality. He could talk to kids and get them to run through a brick wall and get them to understand what they’re supposed to be doing. We’re going to miss him.”

Funeral arrangements for Williams are pending.

Osceola publisher Jerry Kutz contributed