UVA football players celebrate lives of Devin, Lavel and D'Sean
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- On another Saturday afternoon, Virginia players were supposed to gather at Scott Stadium to play another game with their teammates and friends Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D'Sean Perry.
Instead they gathered at John Paul Jones Arena to memorialize them and to not remember the way they died, but to remember the way they lived."
"To my three young kings, I'm eternally grateful for you," head coach Tony Elliott said, "Thank you for being the light to the world."
Through the tears and laughter, the UVA community and football program began to heal, while celebrating the lives of three amazing people with music, including Grammy Award-winning gospel singer Cece Winans, and stories to make sure they will never be forgotten.
"To the families we love your sons, we love your sons and we will make sure their legacy never fades at the University of Virginia," UVA Director of Athletics Carla Williams said.
A crowd of 9,075 packed inside of JPJ, included Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips and UVA football alumni like Chris Long and Heath Miller among many others.
"Devin, Lavel and D'Sean will never be forgotten," UVA President Jim Ryan said, "Dance and sing and love again when you are ready because you remember them and the light that they shared with all of us."
UVA players shared about the light Devin, Lavel and D'Sean were to the world with their humor.
"Lavel the one conversation that comes to my mind is when you told me on the sideline," freshman kicker Will Bettridge said, "You look at me and you go 'Damn Will, I need to tell my son to be a kicker, y'all don't do nothing in practice."
"We was laughing a little too loud and he's got this real funny laugh that make everybody else start laughing," sophomore defensive back Donovan Johnson said about a bus ride after a game with D'Sean Perry, "And Coach E got up like 'yo, y'all cut that laughing out' and then if you know him he gave me this look, he was like this and then I started laughing so hard."
"Devin or as his family says Devin 'The Dancing Machine', Williams said as she recounted stories from Chandler's family, adding Devin's rhythm was suspect.
But also grieved the loss of a teammate, a friends, a brother.
"Oh what I would give to see you and that smile of yours one more time, unfortunately I cannot," senior defensive end Chico Bennett said about Lavel, "But I know you are smiling up there and so for that I will do the same down here."
"I was very angry and had many bad thoughts of revenge on what happened to you," junior defensive lineman Ben Smiley said about the emotions after hearing about the death of Perry and his teammates, "I knew you were all about peace and love and my mindset switched."
"A piece of my life was taken from me and from our Cavalier Community, you were the brother that I never knew I had," Bettridge said about Perry, who had been a teammate and friend since little league and at Gulliver Prep before Virginia.
"We were fortunate and blessed enough for you to be in our lives and the impact you left on them is everlasting, we love you so much and know you're smiling down on us from heaven," sophomore running back Cody Brown read from a letter to Devin.
The saddest of all fall Saturdays ended with hope of the UVA community coming together once again and stronger as the lights went down at JPJ illuminated by the glow of orange and blue lights.
"Lavel, Devin, D'Sean I am so looking forward to the strength, motivation, courage and love that you all will provide as we triumph in the days ahead."
"Weeping is going to last for the night, but great joy is coming in the morning because of 1, 15, 41, we have the responsibility to rebuild this community and program on the legacy of their stars and do so in such a way as to bring light into the world," Elliott said.
"To everyone here I say we will turn today's tragedy triumph."