Atlanta Falcons special teams coordinator Marquice Williams, flanked by his parents, Aaron and Bridgette. Courtesy of Marquice Williams
7:00 AM ET

Marquice Williams was excited and nervous. It was Sunday morning. The next day could be the biggest of his career.

He was about to get the chance he had been waiting for, after years of meandering through colleges and bouncing among NFL teams, moving from positions as a Bill Walsh diversity coaching fellow to one as an assistant special teams coach.

The chance to interview for a job.

It was a time of uncertainty. Marquice had been let go by his boss, Brayden Coombs, after MattPatricia was fired from the Detroit Lions.

He did not tell anyone in his family about his interviews because he knew the coaching transition reality. Marquice didn't want to let anyone down if he didn't get a job, even though he was proud of his mother and father

His phone rang while he was getting ready. Brandon was his brother. Bridgette and Aaron had been sick for a while. Bridgette was working at home in California when she was told that her husband couldn't smell or taste. On Wednesday, he went for a test. Bridgette went Thursday.

Both had not received results by Sunday morning. Bridgette started to feel unwell. Brandon told Marquice to talk to his mom.

She was asked if she received her results. She had not. She had evidence two hours later. She got worse throughout the day. Brandon lived with his parents.

Bridgette's condition deteriorated by evening. Paramedics were called by Brandon and Aaron. Bridgette was going to the hospital when Brandon text Marquice, who was on the couch with his wife, Liz. Marquice was confused. She found out she had something. How fast was this happening?

Marquice's phone rang around midnight. Bridgette had a heart attack and it was believed to be caused by COVID. She did not make it to the hospital. She died. She was 55 years old.

Marquice was shocked. His sounding board was Bridgette's biggest fan. She was the one who kept him from quitting football. How could the person who meant so much to him and his family no longer be with him?

Marquice said that it still doesn't feel real.

He spent hours on the phone with his family. Marquice cried in his room alone and with Liz, sharing his memories and information with his grieving family. He was going to be one of the best days of his life. His family had no idea. Marquice would not share his secret. Not now.

He met with Arthur Smith about a job.

Bridgette Williams loved sports. She tried to instill the game in her four sons. She was attracted to soccer and football when she was younger.

When Marquice was in high school, Bridgette sat in her car. She sat in the lawn chair if the temperature got too hot in the van. Her presence and loud voice made coaches know who she was. She could be heard from the stands yelling "Smackledackle!" whenever one of her boys made a big tackle.

The man was sitting a row behind. He jokes that one of them had to be sane. They were set up on a blind date by his cousin when he was 21 and Bridgette was 18. It did not take. He was persuaded to attend a family wedding by his cousin. Bridgette was brought by her.

This time, though, the match up worked. They began a long distance relationship. I got married. I had four kids. Bridgette videotaped every game her sons played, even making her husband buy a new camcorder when one broke, as he was the mellower half to his wife. She studied the game to make sure she didn't have any sons who were half-assed.

"I came home and watched it again," he said. She would plug it in and watch it again after we came back from the game.

Marquice Williams enjoyed his childhood with his siblings, his dad and a doting mom who was his biggest fan. Courtesy of Marquice Williams

When her boys went to college, she listened to broadcasts and watched livestreams. The tapes from high school still reside in their home.

It was her way of understanding. When Bridgette came home from work, she was known as DTP.

The demands of chores and homework began when the mom arrived. She would force her children to stop playing video games if tasks weren't done. She bartered with a salesman to get Marquice his first car, a black, two-door Chevy Cavalier.

Heading into his off-season of uncertainty, those messages manifest. Know your worth. Even if it means having to uproot Liz and the kids again, know what you will accept.

Bridgette was Marquice's nickname and she was called almost every day. The message was the same when he had doubts. The message pushed him to take another step in his career. She told Marquice to quit football after a week. A life motto is ingrained in Marquice.

Don't do anything if you are going to do something.

Marquice didn't consider canceling the interview. He sat on his bed and lay down in the middle of the night to process the disbelief and destruction in his world.

How could he balance the last 36 hours, from Smith calling and asking Williams to interview on Saturday night, to the devastation of Sunday, and now the hope of Monday? He was unsure of how to proceed. The side room was where Liz pulled Marquice.

She consoled him and was as firm as Bridgette might be.

She was so proud of him. He was so proud of what he had accomplished. Liz said that she would have been angry if he had done bad. She would have said, "No, nuh-uh, we are not being dramatic about this." Okay. We are going to keep it moving. You have something to do here, Marquice.

Marquice understood. Liz left the house in the morning, making an impromptu McDonald's trip. On about 15 minutes of sleep, Marquice got on the Zoom with Smith.

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They talked for 90 minutes on Monday. Marquice had a vision for special teams. He talked about his life. He always has an infectious enthusiasm. An important quality for Smith is his ability to problem-solve.

Marquice didn't mention his mom. He didn't want sympathy during the interview. He wanted the job because he was good. He doesn't know how he got through the interview, one Smith called "unbelievable."

The next two days were chaotic. Liz became the emotional-support system for the rest of the family after studying social work. She and Marquice told their kids that their grandmother had died. There would be no funeral or trip to California for two of the four who grasped it.

They didn't tell anyone about the interview because it was difficult to navigate the crushing present and unknown future. On Wednesday, Marquice's phone rang again.

It was Smith.

Marquice Williams faced the difficult task of his telling his children their grandmother Bridgette had passed away. Courtesy of Marquice Williams

He began the call by offering his sympathies. When she recommended Marquice for the job, he found out. Smith did not need convincing by then. He wanted to hire Marquice.

He was floored byPatricia's revelation. What did he do? How? Smith would have delayed the interview if he had known.

Smith asked why he didn't tell her about the interview.

Smith can't believe it a year later. Marquice explained how his mother would have pushed him to do it. Smith shared his news. He offered Marquice the job he was looking for.

The 72 hours prior were overwhelming. Marquice broke down. Everything she had done for him was told to Smith. Smith had a lump in his throat as Marquice became more emotional. He had experienced his own family grief and heard it in Marquice.

Smith had to pull over to the side of the road to collect himself after the call. He told Allison that he was going to tell her about Marquice.

Smith said it broke his heart to hear about his mother. It kind of shocked me, so I kind of paused.

Like, holy shit.

Marquice returned to the room where his wife was waiting after he hung up the phone. She knew the difference between a short call and a long call.

He looked at Liz and cried. The type of tears is hard to explain. They were called brothers by Marquice and Aaron. They had been holding a secret. Hope and joy were found by the Williams family.

Lingering was the thought of the person who he couldn't call, the person who he usually shared his job news with after his wife. The person who would be most excited, who would be going all around Fresno to be proud of her son, was no longer with them.

The days are still hard a year later. Their last conversation is over. Marquice is checking in now. More responsibility at work made it easier to distract. He is not sure how he got through it. Liz said he has opened up in the last month. Wanted to have more difficult conversations.

Marquice opened a drawer on his nightstand and found a book he hadn't looked at in a while. There was a card in December of 2020 that was uncertain about Marquice's future. It was from Bridgette.

The memories came flooding back.

Marquice said that there is no time limit on the grieving process. I was blessed to have a mother in my life, nothing wrong about that, and it is why I speak about her, because I would not be where I am today without her.

She wants to be her son and every day make her proud. She is not on this planet, but I can still make her proud. That is something every day I think about.