Note: The following appears in the Charlotte gameday football program.
It took a while to start this interview with Jill Williams-Wilks about her 26-year career as an administrative assistant with the Tiger football program. We kept getting interrupted by current Clemson student-athletes who came by to see “Miss Jill” and get a hug.
It was no surprise to me, as I worked closely with her for 25 of those 26 years. Over the years, her knowledge, when it came to our players, gave me a few story ideas. And no one helped me more when I was trying to track down players for media interviews.
When you hear coaches and players refer to “Clemson Family,” she is one of the reasons they elicit those feelings.
When the Tigers arrive to Memorial Stadium, she is in the hallway just outside the locker room, wishing each player well with a hug before they suit up. It has become a tradition.
“That started one year (before Tiger Walk started) when I happened to be outside the bus when the team arrived. A player gave me a hug when he got off the bus, then another, then another. It just started naturally.”
She wears many hats within football administration, but one of her biggest roles is helping student-athletes and their families make the transition from high school to the Clemson experience.
“Jill makes a connection with the players and their parents when they first come to Clemson, and that connection lasts through their time here and beyond,” said Brad Scott, former Tiger assistant head coach who is now director of player development and recruiting transition.
“She is someone who gives the parents peace of mind, because she is a person they can call in our department if they have a question or need some advice on anything that deals with their son. They all love Jill and know she is here for their son.”
She also gives Scott peace of mind because of her connections on campus.
“Jill knows just about everyone on campus,” said Scott with a smile. “With her years of service on the other side of campus, she can get things done in an hour that would take me a week. She makes our department so much more efficient.”
Williams-Wilks first came to Clemson from nearby Seneca, S.C. in 1976. She was in the same high school graduation class as former Clemson All-America tight end Bennie Cunningham. Her employment history with the university began in the undergraduate studies department, then she moved to the engineering department in 1986. Seven years later, she joined Tommy West’s first staff.
“I applied to work in athletics twice before I finally was hired on the third try.”
She has seen the program make great strides in every area, but especially on the field.
“When I started, we were just trying to get to six wins and get to a bowl game. Then, we just wanted to have a chance to win the ACC. We finally did that (in 2011). I never dreamed we could compete for the national championship. Now, we have won two of the last three. It has been such a blessing to be a part of this.”
While the excitement of a football weekend and helping make life easier for the current student-athletes and their families is gratifying, she gets great satisfaction from working with her own group of student workers. Among the large group of members of that fraternity are current Clemson administrators Stephanie Ellison and Brad Woody, who both are assistant athletic directors.
Another former student worker is Sara Moll, who now has her own events and entertainment consulting company based in Los Angeles, Calif. She worked with the NFL for many years producing Super Bowl halftime shows.
“I take a lot of pride in my former students,” said Williams-Wilks. “I like to think I helped them along the way. I remember when Stephanie was a student and she had a chance to work in compliance for Becky Bowman, she was a little hesitant. I told her she would learn a lot from Becky and it would be a great experience.”
Scott paid Williams-Wilks the greatest compliment five years ago when she was contemplating retirement.
“I told her she could not retire. I would not allow it.
“She is irreplaceable.”