McCrae Williams fulfilled his dream to play Division 1 Lacrosse as a Goalie when he was recruited to play for Lafayette College. McCrae was a true scholar athlete – incredibly well known for his spectacular game-changing saves as well as his accomplishments in the classroom. Tragically, McCrae passed away due to a traumatic head injury resulting not on the field but from a fall in his freshman dorm after attending a lacrosse introduction party.
Instead of summoning emergency help, students strapped a backpack on him (also known as Jansporting or drunkpacking) and put him to bed in the misguided belief it would be helpful. But as the hours passed, McCrae’s brain bled uncontrollably, and by the time help was called, it was too late. Shortly after arriving at a neuro trauma center, it was clear that McCrae was in grave peril. He passed away Sept 12, 2017. Within days, he was taken off life support and his organs were donated to 5 individuals.
It is horribly tragic that an athlete who was so well known for making saves as the last line of defense wasn’t saved by those around him. If 911 had been called, McCrae would be with us today. His death was completely avoidable. When students are afraid to call for help at a time of medical need, they are taking great risk with the lives of others.
In McCrae’s memory, the McCrae James Williams Foundation was established.
Although McCrae’s life was cut tragically short, it was a life well-lived and one full of incredible experiences. The letters in McCrae’s name fully embody who he was.
No matter what McCrae focused his attention on, he did so with a clear and deliberate Mission. He was incredibly goal-oriented and meticulous with his work. He put his all into everything he did.
He felt that having good character was all that truly mattered which is why one of his favorite quotes is “The true test of a person’s character is how they treat the people in their life that they don’t need.”
McCrae had proudly displayed on the back of his lacrosse helmet Psalms 3:6. “I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies who surround me on every side.” As a goalie, he was the last line of defense, something he carried to his friendships.
You can’t respect others if you don’t respect yourself. McCrae had tremendous self-respect. He was an incredible teammate and fierce with competitors but was often seen helping an opposing player up off the ground or letting an opposing attackman know that he made a good shot or play.
He loved to learn and enjoyed school, especially while at Nobles. Beyond the classroom, McCrae was a student of all things. As a goalie, he studied the technical aspects of the position and, before any game, he would watch highlight videos of his opposing attackmen.
As an artist, he was self taught and loved spending time with Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and Premier. As a business-minded kid, he spent countless hours developing multiple businesses such as selling and trading for Sideline Swap , private goalie coaching and most recently, creating drone videos for commercial real estate developers and advertisers.
McCrae and his brother Chase started Stick to Your Goals, a community service non-profit, that was focused on distributing used lacrosse gear to underserved youth interested in the sport and the life lessons from it. Since 2008, his annual collections of equipment and uniforms were shipped to Maya Lacrosse in Guatemala for the children who live, work and play in the City Dump.
On family trips, McCrae was an active part of distributing educational materials and sports gear to help those in rural village schools and orphanages around the globe.
McCrae had incredible empathy for those around him. There are so many stories from those who found his ability to listen and his kind words extremely supportive. Whether it was an email, a hug, a handwritten note or just a smile, McCrae had a way of making you feel okay.
“Everyone has their gifts and everyone has their challenges.” This was and has always been his family’s motto of acceptance and empathy.
A life full of incredible experiences
From an early age, McCrae showed incredible compassion for animals, a curiosity for how things worked and depicted the world he loved in art, photography and video. After living overseas from the ages of 2 to 6 years old, McCrae nurtured his family’s love for adventure and travel and wanted to see the world. His family treasured their travels and reached nearly all the continents, which was the family’s ultimate goal. He chronicled these trips with incredible photos and videos, even earned a World Wildlife Federation Award for 2 of his photos in the age 10 – 14 category.
In 5th grade, he was spotted by the Casting Director for Adam Sandler’s movie Grown Ups and served as the double for Adam’s son “Keithie” in the movie. While McCrae had no intention of becoming a movie star, his love of adventure and his interest in new experiences fulfilled a wish and earned him his nickname “Hollywood” in 5th grade.
Sitting at a movie set was passionately replaced by his commitment and determination to play NCAA Division 1 Lacrosse. He earned an early spot as a 6th grader for the Littlenecks Club Team, part of the Top Gun Fighting Clams organization. His team, made up of 7th and 8th grade players, loved the “little guy” in the net. His Defensemen who had at least 12- 18 inches in height over him soon learned that size didn’t matter. His passion for the game and his determination to excel loomed large on the field.
He continued to play at a high level of both Club and High School Lacrosse and reached his goal with a commitment to play at Lafayette College as a Division 1 Goalie in his sophomore year at his beloved high school, the Noble & Greenough School. As Captain of his team there, he brought the team to their best record in over a decade. He was awarded the Arnold Lacrosse Prize, given to the player whose Skills, Passion and Dedication best exemplified the love of the game. All his coaches and Nobles teammates know him as a fierce competitor, filled with courage, consumed with perseverance and a true leader who lifted his teammates’ love of the game to the next level.
Beyond playing, McCrae and his brother Chase spearheaded and founded “Stick to Your Goals” which collects and donates used lacrosse equipment and uniforms to those who can’t afford the gear. After 9 years of collecting and donation placements, McCrae transferred his community service project over this past summer to another family in the Weston community who will keep the program alive. Other chapters of this project have been started in neighboring states.
Off the field, he was a strong student, meticulous about his work, and respectful. He had a smile and an infectious spirit that transcended all. The depth of his eyes spoke volumes. He was compassionate and had an unbelievable ability to connect with people of all ages.
His family was the most important thing in his life. He treasured his parents and his brother Chase and they were his ultimate team. McCrae truly had it all. McCrae’s organs have been donated to a handful of incredibly lucky recipients who now have a chance to live new lives. As a Goalie, saving now takes on new meaning. And this is what he would have wanted.