Jim Byron's Page
Jim was Grand Marshall of the parade
And here is a newspaper article of Jim's retirement
The following was written by one of Jim's high school players and it won a prize and a scholarship!!!
Jim Byron: Little Big Man
By Chase Gruening
He looked like a leprechaun; this odd little man wobbling up and down the sidelines of the football field. Dressed in purple, barely four foot tall and well over sixty years old he couldn't possibly be a coach or even a former player. Yet, more often than not, when the players came running off the field they ran toward this little man rather than the coach.
Jim Byron has been the unofficial trainer for the Williamsville High School football team for over 30 years. He wasn't a teacher or a coach by formal training or education, but he taught me more than anyone else I met on the school grounds in Sherman and Williamsville.
Jim was born with spina bifida, a disease that stunts body growth and damages your spine. He battled through pain and multiple surgeries having to learn to walk again at the age of ten. The pain he endured allowed him to feel empathy for others who were suffering and he became a professional masseur in 1963 and helped athletes from sixty neighboring schools.
Each Thursday evening before the Friday game the players gathered for a team dinner. Afterwards, we headed to Jim's center for a rubdown. While the massage helped prepare our weary bodies, it was Jim's words that prepared us most. He seemed to know - and hug -everyone, but he made you feel like you were the only one. He would tell us how special we were and instill the confidence and motivation we needed. His words were supportive and sincere. Jim told us we had been given talent, but reminded us that our success was just part of God's game plan. We'd leave with rejuvenated bodies and spirits ready to take on whatever Goliath was waiting for us on the football field the next evening. Jim would never accept payment for those massages he gave the football players.
I related to Jim because I was also "height challenged." Each year at my physical, I would ask my pediatrician how tall I would get when I grew up. I went out for all types of sports, but at 5'7 it was difficult for me to compete with other guys in basketball, or baseball or track. Football became my game and I gave it my all. Jim taught me that when the odds are against you, you don't give up. You give it your all. Be passionate. Be determined. Be a leader. You may not be able to control what is thrown at you, but what you do when the ball is tossed your way can make a difference not only to you, but to those by your side, those on the other side and those on the sidelines. Jim Byron inspired us to be our best on and off the field.
At 76, Jim has slowed down in recent years. He closed his shop in 2005 and battled cancer most of 2006. When the chemotherapy treatments left him drained, he still made it to all the home games and most away games even if it meant he had to leave at half time. I hope he will be on the sidelines of the 2A championship game on November 24th when I will be recognized as one of sixteen players selected to the IHSA Class 2A all star team.
Maybe first impressions should be trusted. Maybe Jim Byron really is a leprechaun. I feel lucky to have the good fortune of knowing him. He may have touched my body for the season, but he touched my life forever.
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