A spokeswoman with the Putnam Community Medical Center said Williams passed away shortly before midnight in his hometown of Palatka, Fla. The medical examiner confirmed the cause of death was an acute asthma attack.
Williams' passing came as a shock to the Palatka community. He had started volunteering as a football coach at Interlachen High School in Putnam County earlier this year, and principal Phyllis Criswell said Williams appeared to be in good shape and perfectly healthy at practice Tuesday afternoon.
"This has been very hard on our football players," Criswell said. "... They have grown to care about Jarvis and were looking forward to their game this Friday (a scrimmage). Now they'll be playing in dedication to him."
Jerome Wilkerson had been friends with Williams since his senior year of high school. Wilkerson said he hopes Williams is remembered as a great family man.
"He was always smiling, always laughing," Wikerson said. "He was a person you loved to be around."
Former Gators and Dolphins teammate Louis Oliver remembered Williams' famous tackle of University of Miami standout Melvin Bratton in 1986 as "the hit that resonated around the country." Oliver said he has never seen anything like it in football before or since.
"Jarvis Williams ... was not only a personal friend but a tremendous football player for both the Dolphins and the Gators," Moore said in a statement Wednesday. "He dedicated his life to coaching and helping young people and it's a real tragedy for him to pass away at such an early age."
Williams' son currently plays football for Jacksonville University.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press