Thousands joined the Virginia football team, coaches and staff Saturday to honor three players who were shot and killed while returning from a field trip last weekend.
Lavel Davis Jr., D’Sean Perry and Devin Chandler were remembered during a memorial service in Charlottesville as great teammates who constantly smiled and looked to brighten the lives of those around them, from fellow players to fellow students and fans.
The service came a day after Virginia basketball players paid tribute as they returned to the court for the first time since the campus shooting.
‘Only time will reveal God’s purpose in this adversity. Moving forward, I’m sure all three will rejoice in paradise, speaking good things on behalf of each of us in preparation for the time when we will all be together again,” said first-year head coach Tony Elliott. .
To family and friends seated in the first two rows, Elliott added, “I am grateful for your willingness to share your family’s gifts with all of us.”
Athletic director Carla Williams shared stories she heard this week from family members of the players, saying the tragedy “has pushed me over the edge.”
Thousands of people joined the Virginia football team, coaches and staff for a memorial service in Charlottesville on Saturday to honor three players who were shot and killed last weekend.
University of Virginia athletic director Carla Williams, left, and football coach Tony Elliott wipe tears during service for Lavel Davis Jr., D’Sean Perry and Devin Chandler
“We are better and we will do better because we will make sure that their legacies never fade at the University of Virginia,” he vowed, telling families: “We love your children.”
The service at John Paul Jones Arena came on a day the Cavaliers were scheduled to play No. 23 Coastal Carolina, but chose to honor their fallen teammates, as well as injured player Mike Hollins and another student who He was shot.
Among the presenters was Grammy-winning gospel singer Cece Winans, who the school says asked to participate. She sang ‘The Goodness of God’.
Several Cavaliers participated. Placekicker Justin Duenkel gave an opening prayer, linebacker Hunter Stewart read Langston Hughes’ poem ‘Life is Fine’ and defensive end Jack Camper offered the closing prayer. In between, administrators and teammates of the slain men offered stories and reflections on their soccer brothers.
Gospel singer CeCe Winans sings as three players were remembered at the John Paul Jones Arena
Ross Brown places flowers at a memorial at John Paul Jones Arena on the university’s campus
A family member of a shooting victim cries during a memorial service in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Perry was “destined to be great at everything he did,” defensive tackle Aaron Faumui said. He added that Perry often reminded him that “life was more important than football.”
In a letter to Chandler, whom Williams referred to as ‘a dancing machine’, Cody Brown told him that you ‘lit up our lives like a bright star in the sky’ and said: ‘We love you so much and we know you are smiling down on us from the darling.
Coach Marques Hagans said Davis was humble with a beaming smile and “determined to be a great example for his younger sister and brother.”
His teammate Chico Bennett offered a message for Hollins and Marlee Morgan, the injured student, neither of whom were present: ‘We love you. We got you. The journey begins.’
Community members attend memorial service for three players killed on campus last weekend
Kicker Will Bettridge shared that once, on the bench, Perry told him that he was going to tell his son to play that position because kickers have so little to do.
“They took a piece of my life and the Cavaliers community,” Bettridge said.
University president Jim Ryan said the shootings “changed our world” and while he and others will mourn the games students will never be able to play, “we will find strength again together.”
The players were killed last Sunday after a field trip to Washington, DC. Former Virginia football player Christopher Darnell Jones Jr. faces three counts of second-degree murder and other charges. The shootings triggered a manhunt and a 12-hour campus lockdown before Jones was taken into custody.
The suspect was never mentioned during the nearly two-hour service.
Mourners were allowed in an hour before the service was scheduled to start and heard musical performances by school choral groups and the MLK Community Choir. Photos of the players as children and in action on the field scrolled across the video board.