Master Sgt. Jason Williams reminds his wife, Beth, just about every weekend to record the Carolina Panthers game. He’s stationed in South Korea, making it tough to catch the games live, but goes out of his way to watch his favorite team in action.
But elsewhere in North Carolina, the Cleveland Panthers Mini Mites take the field on a gray Saturday morning in October. There’s a slight drizzle, and and their coach is more than 7,000 miles away — roughly a 16-hour plane ride from Benson, North Carolina.
Williams coaches the Panthers Mini Mites. He’s also a part of the 4th Fighter Squadron of the United States Air Force. Beth Williams said the call to go came all of a sudden. He had to leave her behind, as well as his daughter, Paige, and his favorite football player — his son Chandler.
Jason Williams also left behind a group of kids on his team. He tries his best to be a positive influence on their development as children and as football players.
“Whenever we did something wrong, he’d encourage us,” said Kaden Blake. “He really taught me how to play football.”
Jeremy Blake added: “One of the other coaches get on them, helping these kids grow.”
Time and distance aren’t enough to keep him from his coaching duties. The team’s games are recorded, and Williams goes out of his way to review film.
None of the kids on that team miss him quite as much as his son does. Chandler — the team’s undersized, scrappy go-getter — is known as the “honey badger.” Williams sees some of himself in Chandler.
“He loves the game and he loves the Panthers. He’s all in just like I am,” Williams said.
The kids don’t have time to feel bad for themselves. They miss him, and they’re holding out hope Williams will be back home just in time for a playoff run.