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Coach gives home and kidney to former player

2:24 PM, Jun 16, 2011   |    comments
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By Mike Bush

Texas City, TX (KSDK) - The two most important sports in Texas City, Texas are football. And spring football.

The high school doesn't have a field; it has a stadium that can hold 10,000 people. But even if it could hold 10 million, none of them would likely have a story like the two people here on this day.

"We obviously share something that not many people can understand," said football coach Rick Wallace.

Wallace is a long time football coach and Tyrese Williams was one of his players. They first met more than 20 years ago, about four hours from Banquete, Texas.

"I didn't like him," Williams said. "I was scared to death of him. I really was."

Like a lot of football coaches, Wallace is a yeller.

"People laugh, when he's coaching on the sidelines," said athletic director Tim Finn. "You can hear him across the county."

Years later, his booming voice still echoes on this field. But he knew Ty Williams could play.

"Very, very good," said Wallace. "He started at tailback and also at cornerback."

At the age of 16, Williams lived on the outside of town when his divorced father was offered a job in another town.

"He gets a job working for the government running apartments for the government," Williams said.

But Williams didn't want to leave. Though he was the only black student at Banquete High School, he felt a part of something. That's when, to his surprise, Coach Wallace and his wife agreed to take Williams into their home, for the rest of high school, as his legal guardians.

"He needed a family," said Sissy Wallace, Rick's wife. "He needed someone to guide him through school. And I'm a teacher and I work with kids every day and there are many I would bring home if I could,"

"He seemed like a good person," said Coach Wallace. "He seemed responsible. He was very, very respectful."

And for Ty, fear soon turned to affection.

"At first he was like a big brother," he said. "And then he became like a father. We did everything together."

Ty graduated high school went into the army and later came home to start his own business. He was living his dream, but then the dream turned into a nightmare. In 2008, after feeling ill for months, Ty was diagnosed with stage four renal failure.

"I had a first opinion, I had a second opinion. I had a third opinion," said Williams. "And the third guy said "you're kidneys will shut down."

By this time, Williams had four children and was on dialysis. What he needed however was a kidney transplant.

"At the time, I thought I was going to die," he said. "I didn't want to leave them. Who is going to take care of them, right? Who is going to support them? Who is going to be there for them when they need their dad around?"

Twelve people were tested as possible donors including family and friends but none of them were a match. But Rick Wallace was lucky number 13.

"Even the doctors were stunned," Williams said. "They could not believe our markers matched. It was unbelievable. Just fell out of the sky unbelievable."

He was on a camping trip hooked up to a dialysis machine when he got the call from Wallace.

"My comment was, 'I am very, very mad at you. I can no longer be a Sports Illustrated swim model,'" Wallace said.

"And I just started crying. It was a very emotional time for me," Williams said.

Shortly after the operation, the two men dressed in hospital gowns were walking the halls of the hospital together.

"It was humbling that I was able to give an organ to him and for him to now be able to walk with me. Which before he could not," said Wallace.

"You know he's making smart remarks about hurry up. You're dragging behind," said Williams.

The road to recovery has been a long one for both Wallace and Williams but they seemed to have turned a corner.

"We tell each other that we love each other every time we talk," said Wallace.

On high school fields across the country, football coaches give the gift of time and knowledge to players every day. Rick Wallace gave the gift of life.

"If you're his friend, you're his friend for life," said Finn. "And he would do anything to help you and look what he's done for this young man."

"He's back to being a family man, a dad, a friend, you know a hard worker and I was able to give him that. And for that, I'm thankful," said Wallace.

This may be a story about one man giving a kidney to another but what he truly gave was his heart.

"He was there," said Williams. "And I'm happy that he was."

KSDK

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