KU's Todd "Leaper" Williams Earns Special Olympics Honor

March 25, 2010

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Longtime Kansas athletics department employee Todd “Leaper” Williams was recently recognized as the Kansas Special Olympics Gary Samuels Most Inspirational Athlete.

Williams, who has assisted in the football equipment room since 1970, also won a gold medal at the Kansas Special Olympics State Basketball and Cheerleading Tournament in Hays, March 18-20. Williams plays basketball for the Douglas County Jayhawks.

The Most Inspirational honor is named after Gary Samuels, a former Lawrence Special Olympian.

“Gary exhibited a lot of enthusiasm to the sport and to his teammates,” said Chris Hahn, President and CEO of Kansas Special Olympics. “If anyone ever witnessed Leaper’s performances, you can see he is very exuberant in his play and is very team-oriented like Gary was. He likes to make the other players on his team better. He has a great support for his teammates and he hustles 110 percent. He exemplifies what the award is about.”

Williams said the Most Inspirational honor did not really sink in until he returned home from the event.

“It really hit me when I got home and checked all of my messages,” he said.

Williams, who was inducted into the organization’s hall of fame in 1985, has been an inspiration, not only to other special Olympians, but to those associated with Kansas football.

Williams works under the direction of KU football equipment supervisor Jeff Himes, assisting with laundry, facility cleaning and on the field with the defensive backs.

“He is here every day and always has a smile on his face,” Himes said. “He knows everything that is going on in KU sports and will tell you about it. He always has a positive attitude and everyone stops to talk to him.”

Williams has been a positive influence on the players as well.

“He has great character,” said former defensive back Darrell Stuckey. “He is a guy who is always smiling and is always happy. He has influenced the team with his attitude. He is a guy the players really respect. He is willing to do whatever it takes to make those around him happy. He does exactly what is asked of him and he never disrespects anybody.”

Stuckey talked about how Williams makes sure his responsibilities are met. After special teams practice, Williams is in charge of collecting the yellow helmet covers the team wears during those drills.

“He will start yelling at the players to ‘give me your hats,'” Stuckey explained. “He will say “if you don’t give me your hats you are going to be running the rest of practice.'”

Williams knows the history of Kansas football and likes to test others with trivia questions. He also likes to spread the word of Kansas football. Hahn said that when Williams received his award, he asked if he could say a few words.

“He started talking about Coach (Turner) Gill and how we need to have faith in him and how he is going to get the players Kansas needs to win a Big 12 Championship,” Hahn said.

“Todd is a great individual who is caring, friendly and out-going,” Hahn said. “He doesn’t get mad very often and he has the great sports philosophy of if a play or game didn’t go well, it will the next time.”