A fight beyond the field: ADM communities rally around Cole Williamson as he battles cancer
ADM's Cole Williamson saw his high school gridiron career come to a screeching halt before his senior season started.
The three-year varsity football starter received a cancer diagnosis in September as the 2020 high school football season was getting underway.
"It was pretty tough to hear and tough for football to be taken away from you just like that, especially during senior year," Williamson said.
Yet even with the bad news delivered, the game still went on for Williamson.
"You can't give up and you just have to keep on fighting," he said. "You just have to stay positive and keep pushing on."
Though Williamson's absence was certainly felt by the ADM football team.
"When you talk about Cole's story, you're talking about two different things, Cole as a football player and Cole and his battle with cancer," said ADM head football coach Garrison Carter. "Football-wise, we're missing Cole substantially on the field. He's a toughness presence in the secondary and a super explosive player on the offensive side."
The same player who racked up over 38 tackles in the past two seasons has transferred his talents to the sidelines, perhaps diving into the game more than ever before.
"The story that really needs to be told about Cole is the level of excellence he demonstrated with his leadership during quarantine this offseason before he knew he had anything," Carter said. "He was the person holding teammates accountable to get workouts done, he was texting his teammates and asking me more questions every day as to what he needed to be doing as a leader. Not having him on the field hurts but watching him rise up and continue to lead despite what he's going through is a pleasure to be apart of."
Now, instead of taking down teams with his physical abilities, Williamson is doing damage with his mind while owning the sidelines.
"I know a lot of these guys, I've fought in the trenches with them and I've been where they've been," said Williamson. "I can relate to what they're going through. As a senior, I've seen a lot so it's interesting to see things I've experienced and use that to help my teammates."
Williamson's leadership abilities have been an asset for Carter and his coaching staff.
"He's been thrown adversity that most of us aren't mentally prepared to handle and he's not only handling it, he's thriving in it," said Carter. "He's still been all in for his team and being the leader we need him to be despite not having pads on. He's seen things some of these guys who are playing haven't."
Overcoming adversity has been somewhat of a specialty for Williamson across multiple playing surfaces. In fact, he was just as dominating on the baseball diamond which was highlighted by his complete game against Carroll on Tuesday, June 23 where he struck out four and gave up just one run.
"There have been days where he didn't have his best stuff but he wasn't about to tell you he couldn't go out there, he'd just figure it out," said head baseball coach Jason Book. "That's the quality you want in an athlete because you always knew you'd get Cole's best. He was always my favorite guy doing fieldwork because it would always get done perfect the first time. He doesn't cut corners and he'll whip anyone into shape who isn't giving 100 percent. That's almost a rarity these days."
As the ADM football team gets set to take on the postseason, Williamson has seen an outpouring of support not only from the team but from the ADM communities. A sea of CW2 shirts recently flooded the streets of Adel in support of Williamson's cancer battle.
The idea for the shirts stemmed from Carter and his wife and Iconic Apparel helped make them a reality. The Adel business helped other businesses and organizations during the initial part of the pandemic with various support apparel.
Damon Holland of Iconic Apparel said the business was more than happy to get involved with the community support movement for Williamson.
"I've grown up in a small town and I know how well those communities rally around those in need," said Holland. "It took some planning with distributing the shirts in a pandemic but we knew we had to get it done. We have to take these opportunities as small communities to show why we live in them. There's lots of reasons to be in a small community but your ability to lean on each other is one that you have to take advantage of."
Despite the initial estimate of 800 shirts, Holland and his crew have produced 1,009 shirts.
"Everything went very smooth and I was as impressed with that as the sheer outpouring of support from this community," said Holland.
The shirt's slogan, His Fight, Our Fight, encompasses the support Williamson has received from the football team as well as from the ADM communities.
"Cole is going to beat this, I have 100 percent confidence in that," Carter said. "He's as tough as they come and we all look forward to the future with him."