CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Nothing could prepare Mike Hollins for the walk into Scott Stadium last spring, just four months after surviving the tragic shooting on Grounds.

"Emotional roller coaster to say the least, I didn't really know what to expect emotionally walking into the stadium," Hollins said, "But I know I did feel blessed."

Highlighted by a one-yard plunge into the endzone, Hollins rushed for 40 yards on 11 carries and carried the flame for his UVA teammates in Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D'Sean Perry, while also reaching a milestone in his journey back to the field.

"Never really questioned if I would be able to play football again it was more of that feeling that reaching the endzone gave me in such a sad time," Hollins said.

Virginia returns for fall camp the first week of August, a month out from the start of the regular season opener against Tennessee in Nashville. UVA head coach Tony Elliott says he feels a responsibility to the families of Chandler, Davis and Perry to honor the players next season, but is still figuring out what it could look like.

The focus next week is on making sure football is fun again for the Cavaliers.

"I'm reminded of my speech in the locker room right before the spring game and Mike Hollins' little brother, Deuce, was in there and I brought him up in front of the guys and I pointed to Deuce and I said I want you to play like you're this age again," Elliott said, "I want guys to walk through that door like man I'm blessed to be able to practice and play and I think that we have that perspective now. When we get out here on this grass, we honor the grass by playing the kids game the way that kids used to play."

Hollins left spring practice motivated and confident heading into summer workouts. On Friday, Hollins said he felt 100 percent and had his weight back up to 204 pounds, more than 20 pounds heavier than last winter.

"Honestly anything is possible," Hollins said, "Showed me that I could be resilient under tough circumstances and that's really what this spring was all about, just resilience."

Teammates refer to Hollins as "Iron Mike" or a super hero, and the running back has been thrust into a leadership role.

"He's just gotten up every single day and even through the tears and through the struggles he's shown up and he's been there for his teammates and he's not made anything about him," Elliott said.

But Hollins wants to build off his emotional spring return, looking to battle for the starting running back job in a crowded room along with Perris Jones, Xavier Brown and Clemson transfer Kobe Pace.

"Mike is playing at a high level football wise, something I didn't expect to see," UVA running backs Keith Gaither said, "I didn't expect to see Mike playing football ever again. But he ain't just coming back, he's coming back to be a great football player."

This summer as Hollins works towards hitting the ground running in the fall, Chandler, Davis and Perry were often on his mind and remain a motivation for the entire team to "push through". Along with them, Hollins said he is playing this season for God, his family and the city of Charlottesville.

"I'm excited for what this season holds," Hollins said, "Not just for this team, but just for the city, the University because we need football right now on the field."

Hollins has thought about September 2nd, when Virginia takes the field for the first time, and the chance to add a little gas to flame he carries for his fallen teammates.

"I don't see a way that this season can be a failure," Hollins said, "No matter the record, no matter the ending, no matter anything as long as we go out there and play."