BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – The mother of former NFL wide receiver and Buffalo native Mike Williams said her son was still breathing Saturday night in a Tampa hospital, but used a football analogy to convey the outlook: “I need a Hail Mary.”
Williams was taken off a ventilator Friday in accordance with his wishes, but remained unresponsive more than 24 hours later, according to his mother, Mary Rosenthal. The 36-year-old had been on life support after suffering complications from a workplace accident.
“He said, if this ever happens to me, to pull my plug because I don’t want to live like that,” Rosenthal told Nexstar’s WIVB. “Those are his wishes. When he was a football player, he had already signed the papers.”
Those close to Williams are asking for continued prayers for his recovery. Rosenthal added a second request: Get your money back if you donated to the GoFundMe set up by Williams’ biological father.
Rosenthal said Williams’ father has not been in her son’s life, yet he has collected more than $6,500 by posting a GoFundMe seeking $20,000 in travel expenses to get from Texas to Florida. She said his father has not visited the hospital. Others close to Williams told WIVB this week they were urging the community to report the link as fraud.
Williams’ on-the-job accident last month was not immediately thought to be life-threatening. Rosenthal said Williams was doing electrical work when someone above him dropped a steel beam that struck Williams in the head. He thought he had walked away from the incident with just a headache, but his symptoms worsened that week.
Rosenthal said Williams was initially turned away from the hospital because they thought he only had a concussion, but was admitted days later when he began to lose feeling in his legs. He also developed a staph infection that has contributed to his current situation, Rosenthal said, adding that he underwent surgery on his spinal cord while in the hospital.
Although the mother of Williams’ 8-year-old daughter said Friday that Williams appeared to smile when his highlight video was played in the hospital room, Williams’ mother said any of his movements have been considered involuntary.
Reports that Williams had died circulated in local and national media earlier this week, but sources maintained to WIVB that those reports were false.
Williams has two children, Mya Williams, 8, and a 10-year-old son, Mike Jr.
Tierney Lyle, the mother of Williams’ 8-year-old daughter, described Williams as a caring person who is always willing to lend a hand.
“He goes hard in everything he does,” she said. “He doesn’t give up easily at all.”
Lyles said that when a friend played one of Williams’ highlight videos in the hospital room, he smiled.
Williams was a two-sport standout at Buffalo’s Riverside High School before attending Syracuse University. He was selected in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft and played five seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and his hometown Buffalo Bills. He last appeared on an NFL roster with the Chiefs during training camp in 2016, and had been living in Florida prior to the accident.
“A Buffalo legend,” said Naaman Roosevelt, a high school rival of Williams’ who went on to become the University at Buffalo’s all-time leading receiver.
Williams starred in football and basketball for Riverside, making the All-Western New York team in both sports. He was an all-conference selection in football at Syracuse and also had a brief stint on the Syracuse basketball team.
“Mike is the greatest athlete in Buffalo history,” said Domonic Cook, who played AAU basketball with Williams, and matched up against him when UB visited Syracuse in 2017. “I’ve said that to him, and I’ll continue to say it to this day. He could literally do it all. So much raw talent. He didn’t even have to train. It was just natural. My biggest wish is to have seen him really play basketball at Syracuse. There will never be another like Mike Williams from this area.”
Playing in 29 games over three seasons at Syracuse, Williams caught 133 passes for 2,044 yards and 20 touchdowns, tied for second on the school’s all-time list. He caught a pass in all 28 games he played, the fifth-longest streak in school history. One of four true freshmen to play for the Orange in 2006, his 461 yards receiving the most by a Syracuse freshman since 1990. Williams was a second-team All-Big East selection as a sophomore. His nine-game streak with a touchdown reception was the longest in the country that year.
Williams made the NFL’s all-rookie team in 2010, catching 65 passes for 964 yards and 11 touchdowns after the Buccaneers drafted him 101st overall, the highest selection of any player from Buffalo Public Schools.
Williams earned a six-year, $40 million contract extension with the Bucs after compiling 23 touchdowns in his first three seasons. Less than a year later, Williams was traded to the Bills for a sixth-round pick. He was released by his hometown team after catching eight passes for 142 yards and a touchdown in 2014. Williams boasts the second-best career receiving yardage (3,089) among NFL players born in Western New York, behind Rob Gronkowski (Amherst), the 42nd overall pick in Williams’ draft class.
“What he did coming out of Riverside, a City of Buffalo school, doing the amazing things he did, that was something extra special to see,” said Roosevelt, who played five NFL seasons, and was a teammate of Williams’ as a member of the Bills practice squad in 2014. “He is one of the few I can remember making out of a Buffalo school in our era.”
As a high school senior in 2005, Williams had 970 yards receiving and scored 15 touchdowns, earning Harvard Cup offensive player of the year and first-team Class AA All-State accolades. He was rated the No. 10 recruiting prospect in New York by Rivals.com before committing to Syracuse, and became the first Harvard Cup player in a dozen seasons to receive a Division I-A scholarship.
On the basketball court, Williams scored 1,468 points for Riverside teams that went undefeated in Yale Cup play for two full seasons. In Williams’ junior year, the Frontiersmen became the first school in 21 years to win Harvard Cup and Yale Cup titles in this same season. He averaged 26.3 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists, and 5 steals as a senior. During his sophomore year of college, Williams walked on the basketball team at Syracuse and appeared in four games, scoring seven points.