by Ahjahnae LaQuer, Managing Editor
Gerald Williams Jr., affectionately called, “Jerry” by his family or “Gwopa” by his friends, will be remembered for his giant stature and even bigger heart.
“Gerald was probably the tallest person on campus. And the man had a good heart, he was a comedian, man he was funny. He always made jokes about the smallest things,” said junior business management major, Corey Dyson, after a prayer circle that was held in Williams’ honor the day after his death.
As Dyson sat in the academic quad of Morgan’s campus, fond memories came rushing in of the times he used to go to parties with his 6-foot-8 friend.
“He had this one dance called, ‘The Tall Boy Dance’,” Dyson said with a smile, “He would get real low, knowing he was tall.”
According to Dyson, Williams loved eating at Auntie Anne’s Pretzels on campus.
“I remember him always being at Auntie Anne’s eating a regular pretzel, with icing. I always used to tell him, ‘Yo, that’s so backwards, why would you do that? Wait for the cinnamon pretzel with the icing’,” Dyson laughed.
It became clear very quickly that Williams’ presence had a huge impact on Morgan students. However, after news of his death traveled through text and social media, it was apparent just how many people knew Williams and “RIP Gerald” became a trending topic within an hour.
As the night went on, friends of Williams’ at other colleges began to receive the news, and one was so moved that he recorded a song in Williams’ memory.
The song entitled, “Way 2 Soon” was written and recorded by Justin Alexander, a sophomore and mass communication/music major at Frostburg State University. He found out about Williams’ death through a mass text sent out by a member their high school football team.
Alexander had just got in from a basketball game to find that he was locked out of his apartment where he keeps all his studio equipment, so he stayed with a friend that night and recorded the song in the morning.
“If I could’ve recorded the song that night I would have,” Alexander said through the phone, “I didn’t go to class that morning. I missed class because I woke up and said, ‘I gotta record this song first’.”
Alexander knew Williams through football and the two grew up in the same neighborhood. The two attended Duval High School together in Lanham, MD and grew close over time. Alexander stated that Williams would visit his house often and became an influential person in his life.
Williams had such an impact in Alexander’s life that in high school, he became his motivation to go to class.
“I never wanted to go to class, but knowing Gerald was going to be there, I knew I was going to get a laugh. He was so goofy,” Alexander said.
Williams’ father, Gerald Williams Sr. remembered how ambitious his son was, especially regarding football.
“When he was younger, I would have him jump off the high dive. He liked swimming, he liked cartoons and he liked football,” Williams said, “Once he got into it, around 11 or 12, he took off. He wanted to play all the time.”
The two practiced and trained together for the whole summer.
“I used to take him on the field and throw footballs at him, him and I would do drills. Then we bought the kite that you wear on your back that makes you run fast and we did that for a summer.”
Although the younger Williams’ had been working on his speed, Alexander joked that Williams was “the slowest skinny dude” he knew.
Other members of the Duval football team like, Thomas Opia, graduate student at Morgan State remembered a time before Williams hit his growth spurt, when he was just a small kid trying out for wide receiver.
“The very first day I actually met him was during two-a-days at summer camp and everybody was like, ‘Who’s this little dude right here’,” Opia remembered the scene vividly.
He remembered a younger Williams “running across the middle of the field, shoulder pads hanging off, not even strapped on”. Opia never imagined that that boy would become like a little brother to him.
According to Williams’ father, he was 5’11 in his senior year of high school and had a major growth spurt that summer before attending Morgan and to Opia’s surprise; “Little Gerald” wasn’t so little anymore.
“I think we were outside of Hurt Gymnasium when I first saw him at Morgan,” Opia recalled, “I was like, ‘Yo, how tall are you now man? That’s crazy, you were like ye high’. He had a little swag to him now, back then he didn’t really have swag, he was just a little kid that was on the football team.”
While studying multi-platform production at Morgan’s School of Global Journalism and Communication, Williams touched a lot of hearts including his biology tutor, Sandra Ogunwole, senior biology major, who tutored Williams through the Academic Enrichment Program for Biology in 2014.
“He was just such a bright person, so excited, always smiling,” Ogunwole said, “He came to me for tutoring 3 to 4 times. He was my success story. He was kind of like a trophy for me because I was able to impact his life by helping him get higher grades and he made me believe in my ability as a tutor even more. He inspired me to never give up, and to always try to relate to people, and to help them.”
Williams had just began working on his music career before his death. He aspired to be a rapper and recorded several songs and performed under his stage name, “Gwopa”. Friend and manager, Gregory James described Williams as high-spirited and commended him for working hard to bring up his GPA.
“He went from a 1.2 to a 2.8, because that’s how passionate he was about his career and his life, his future,” James said, “He brought the best out of everybody, he wanted the best for everybody and if anybody’s down, just know that Gwopa Gwopa wouldn’t even want you to be down.”