Will Bettridge suits up in number 41 jersey to honor D'Sean Perry
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- It's hard to measure a bond, especially one as deep as the one between D'Sean Perry and Will Bettridge.
"He was my brother, my mentor, my friend. Ultimately he was a part of my family," said Bettridge, a sophomore kicker at UVA.
From youth football to the sidelines at Gulliver Prep, to the UVA locker room, Bettridge's path in life was a road first carved out by Perry.
They shared a bond, one that was unexpectedly broken the night of November 13th when Perry was tragically killed in a shooting on Grounds.
"I just remember being in my room, and ended up getting the news," said Bettridge, "Obviously just was not a good night. I broke down in my room for a while."
Following Perry's death, Bettridge has learned to navigate life without him, and in turn found a new purpose, carrying on Perry's legacy as he wears his jersey this season.
"One thing that I wanted is, from us as a program, to make sure that their legacies are visible every time we step on the field," said UVA football coach Tony Elliott, "You see that every day he carries himself in a way as to represent D'Sean."
The weight of the number isn't a responsibility Bettridge carries alone. Happi and Sean Perry, D'Sean's parents, have helped Bettridge the most.
"I really don't think I could have gotten through all that without Mr. and Mrs. Perry," said Bettridge. "It was Miss Happi who brought me up and who lifted my spirits. Seeing how she was getting through it, just made me feel so much clear, like wow, she's so strong."
Of the many life lessons D'Sean Perry left Bettridge, one has stood true.
"Whether you're doing exactly what you want or not just play your role and everything will fall into place," said Bettridge.
Now he has a new role, honoring his friend every time he steps onto the field.
"He gave me everything, so I owe everything to him now just to continue his legacy to the best of my ability," said Bettridge. "And make sure that D'Sean, Devin, and Lavel are always honored the right way, and if I can do my part that makes me happy."