Questions remain unanswered six months after the death of Fort Scott Community College football player

Nearly a year after his death at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, a pinned tweet hangs at the top of Tirrell Williams’s Twitter account, “I just wanna be great…” on March 21, 2021.

KCUR’s Sam Zeff speaking about the death of Tirrell Williams

Six months later, on August 20, 2021, Williams, a 19-year-old, Louisiana native, would die of a brain injury due to lack of oxygen, septic shock and tissue damage, according to the death certificate provided to his family.

Tirrell William (center) at his high school’s football signing day

Reporter Sam Zeff has been following the story since last fall, driving to Fort Scott to attend Fort Scott Community College Board of Trustee meetings, including the most recent meeting this past Monday night, February 21. According to Zeff, Fort Scott Community College has done very little to mark or honor Williams’ passing.

“No, none at all. In fact, when I asked the Chairman of the Fort Scott Board of Trustees, a man named John Bartleman, whether he had been given a detailed briefing about the death, whether there were detailed discussions about how to prevent further deaths, he told me simply that this was a matter for the administration to handle meaning the college president and the athletic director and that he had full confidence.”

Williams’s death has similarities to another football-related death in southwest Kansas in 2018 at Garden City Community College. Braeden Bradforth was a New Jersey native who arrived in Garden City, Kansas, days before his death.

Like Williams, Bradforth was a 19-year old, 6’3″ 300-pound linebacker. Both were also African-American with white head coaches who seemingly pushed the boundaries of their players’ lives with cruel and punishing practices.

Zeff spoke with former Fort Scott Community College football players who spoke on the conditions of anonymity and detailed the methods.

“Yeah, I think every death is disturbing in this manner. I found this death to be particularly disturbing. It was a punishment for the candy wrapper; as you mentioned Before the gassers, they did 300 up-downs where they had to drop to the ground where their chest hit the ground and then pop right back up after they did those, they did the gassers on gasser eight or nine, according to the players that I talked to that’s when Tirrell went down.”

Williams on football signing day at his high school in Louisiana in 2021

It would be at least a minute until someone checked on Williams as he laid face down on the football field at Fort Scott CC. At this practice, the college provided no water on a hot, summer Kansas afternoon.

At the time of Williams’ collapse, there was one trainer who was on the other side of campus who would be alerted by players of the severe situation.

As we approach the first anniversary of Williams pinned Tweet, excited about his future, Zeff says nobody at Fort Scott Community has been held responsible, including Head football coach Carson Hunter.

“He’s a lawyer turned football coach who coached high school for a time in Kentucky. He coached high school football in Tennessee for a while. Then was an assistant coach at Murray State University in Kentucky before landing the head football coach position at Fort Scott community college.

He was there for only a year. He signed in last January. They went on to have just a terrible season, and that’s when they discontinued the program in the middle of the season.”

Just three months after Williams’s death, Fort Scott Community College ended its football program after 93-seasons.

Maybe the college was trying to bury the news of Williams’ death or poor decisions that ultimately factored into his death by former Head Coach Carson Hunter.

Or perhaps by Fort Scott Community College administration to hire a man that not prepared to be a football coach.

Zeff has called Carson Hunter, leaving messages. He also knocked on the front door of his house in Fort Scott. Zeff has never received a reply from Carson, and there continues to be little accountability from Hunter or Fort Scott Community College.

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