UVA honors slain players with pregame ceremony

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Virginia honored Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr., D’Sean Perry and their families with a pregame video tribute and permanent memorial inside Scott Stadium on Saturday before kickoff against James Madison.

Chandler, Davis and Perry were shot and killed on a charter bus in November after returning to campus from a school field trip. Two others, including running back Mike Hollins, were shot but survived. The game Saturday marked their first home game since the tragedy, after the final two games of the 2022 season were canceled.

The video, narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, paid tribute to all three players and the legacies they leave behind. Members of all three families stood on the sideline and watched the video board, while the entire Virginia football team stood in the end zone and watched.

Four parachuters then came into the stadium, each one carrying a flag representing the players’ numbers — 1, 15 and 41 — in addition to a ‘Virginia Strong’ flag. Representatives from all three families were recognized — including Davis’ and Perry’s parents, and Chandler’s uncles. Athletic director Carla Williams stood at midfield with the families.

Virginia then unveiled two permanent memorials: Plaques for each player on the Legends’ Walk in the north end of Scott Stadium, and the Nos. 1, 15 and 41 inside diamonds on the south end.

Hollins, as he did last week, led the team onto the field — this time carrying a ‘Virginia Strong’ flag. The entire team knelt in the end zone painted with the phrase ‘Virginia Strong’ and the Nos. 1, 15 and 41. Hollins represented his team for the coin toss, in addition to Davis and Perry’s parents, Chandler’s uncles and Hollins’ parents.

Hollins had the play of the first half, rushing in for a 4-yard score with 1:02 to go for his first touchdown of the season. It was an especially poignant moment for both the team and Hollins, who was in critical condition after he was shot and unsure whether he would play football again.

But Hollins returned faster than doctors anticipated, and decided to play this season in honor of Davis, Perry and Chandler. After the score, his teammates swarmed to embrace him. When he ran back to the sideline, Hollins was greeted with a big hug from his little brother, Deuce.

The tributes began Friday afternoon, when an oak tree was planted on the Betsy and John Casteen Arts Grounds with the entire football team and members of the three families in attendance. University president James E. Ryan said, “We plant this tree, first and foremost, to remember. This oak, for as long as it stands, will help us all remember Devin, Lavel and D’Sean, and who they were as people.”

During the pregame walk into the stadium Saturday morning, the Davis, Chandler, Perry and Hollins families led the team in as orange-clad fans cheered. One fan had a homemade ‘UVA Strong’ sign with their names and numbers.

About an hour before kickoff, members of all three families went into the end zone painted ‘Virginia Strong.’ One member of the Chandler family kneeled on the No. 15. A member of the Perry family did pushups on the No. 41, as others wiped away tears.

Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., a former Virginia student, has been charged in the shootings. On Wednesday, a special grand jury in Charlottesville issued new aggravated murder indictments against Jones. If convicted, he would serve a mandatory life sentence.

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