Lee Academy junior left tackle, defensive end and long snapper Andrew Williamson is the fifth annual Chase Bailey Courage Award winner.
Bailey died of cancer on Aug. 18, 2015 at age 16 during his junior year of high school at Lee. A junior on the Colts football team wins the award every year and Williamson is the 2019 winner.
“It’s a great honor,” Williamson said. “When I saw people get that award, I’ve always wanted it. Chase was such a good football player. He had his faith. It means a lot.
“I try to focus on keeping my every day faith for life and I use it for football.”
Williamson attends Oakhurst Baptist Church where he was baptized.
Maddox Allen was the 2015 winner, Tristan West won in 2016, Crawford Allen won in 2017 and Shane Griffin won in 2018.
“That’s a great group of guys that I can join,” Williamson said. “They all stand out in sports. They all play hard on that team. I’m proud to have joined those guys.”
Bailey was a center, tackle and defensive end. His parents, Tracey and Todd Bailey, present the award every year.
“Todd and I are humbled every year to be able to honor a player who exemplifies the same qualities as Chase on and off the field,” Tracey said. “The coaches do a fabulous job each year selecting the perfect well deserved recipient! We are so proud of Andrew!”
Colts coach Rick Johnston said he and the staff selected Williamson for the award.
"Andrew is a super young man, very hard worker,” Johnston said. “He's a lot like Chase Bailey was - a three-sport star. He played football, baseball and track for us. He would come to work every day, comes to work and works hard. He’s just a good guy."
Williamson did have the opportunity to meet Chase Bailey.
“He played baseball with my brother (Owen Williamson) and I used to go out to his games,” Williamson said. “I talked to him awhile ago when he was playing with my brother, but that was it. We never went to school together.”
Todd Bailey coached Owen Williamson and Chase Bailey in Youth Incorporated baseball together.
Williamson has had the opportunity to learn a lot about Bailey’s legacy.
“It’s from all the stories I’ve heard from Ms. Tracey and Mr. Todd and all the teachers,” Williamson said. “I was going to Lee when he passed away. Everything I’ve heard was he was such a good person all the way around.
“Ms. Tracey and Mr. Todd, they’re really nice people. That shows me how Chase was.”
Williamson is a first baseman and designated hitter on the baseball team and throws shot put and discus on the track team. He won the state championship in the discus as a sophomore.
Since track and baseball seasons did not take off with the coronavirus, being on a football team that made the semifinals in 2019 was extra special for Williamson.
“It means a lot,” Williamson said. “That was the only sport I played. I didn’t know that was going to be it. We had a great group of guys last year. We went further than I ever went with the team. It was a good team.”
Williamson said the best win of the football season for Lee came against Tunica Academy. Former Colts coach John Holcombe is the Tunica Academy coach.
Looking back on 2019 and the run to the state semifinals, the entire season was special.
“We played as a team,” Williamson said. “That’s the best team I’ve been on as we played together.”
Williamson is considering attending Delta State University or Northwest Mississippi Community College. He has played football since fourth grade in the Lee Academy peewee league, but he does not know if he will continue his career in college.
“We’ll just see if any offers come my way,” Williamson said. “If not, that’s OK.”
However, he has had coaches talk to him about competing in the shot put or discus in college.
After Williamson graduates, he will be back for Lee Academy games.
No matter where Williamson’s future takes him, he will help preserve Bailey’s legacy.
“If I ever have a son, he’ll hear about him,” Williamson said. “He’ll definitely know about Chase. The legacy will live on.”