Those drops spritzing from Charlottesville’s overcast sky on Tuesday afternoon were probably from the three of them, knowing that their coaches, teammates and classmates couldn’t keep a dry eye as they grieved down here.
Outside the same Scott Stadium entrance gates that navy-and-orange clad spectators flock through on Saturdays in the fall, flowers of all colors and hand-written notes to Lavel Davis Jr., D’Sean Perry and Devin Chandler — the three Virginia football players killed in Sunday’s shooting on Grounds — were left.
The makeshift memorial was a safe haven for UVa’s community to pay its respects.
Friends who knew the three victims and fans who didn’t gathered and shared hugs. Even one of their football brethren had trekked the mile from the McCue Center, the Cavaliers’ team facility, to the stadium to see for himself how his teammates were honored.
In his navy team-issued sweatshirt, sweatpants and matching beanie, kicker Will Bettridge — also a high school teammate of Perry’s at Gulliver Prep in Miami — paced the length of the gates slowly as he wiped tears from his face and shook his head, still in disbelief.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Cavaliers met and shared the memories they’ll grip to forever of Davis, Perry and Chandler, UVa coach Tony Elliott said during a somber joint press conference later in the day with athletic director Carla Williams.
“Nothing can prepare you for this situation,” Elliott said, “and we just want to be there to support the guys.”
Said Williams: “It’s so shocking that you just want to love on our players, so that’s where we’ve spent our energies. That’s where we’ve spent our time.”
Elliott said the last few days have felt “like a nightmare” and that Tuesday started in the same fashion, but “ended a lot better” because of the hours the players and coaches within the program spent trading stories about Davis, Perry and Chandler.
Elliott knew Davis the longest dating back to when Elliott met the 6-foot-7 superstar pass-catcher as a budding prospect on the recruiting trail. Elliott was an assistant at Clemson then, and upon his hiring at UVa last December, Davis said he was thrilled to actually get the chance to play for the former Tigers offensive coordinator.
“Just to see him grow,” Elliott said about Davis, as Williams, seated to Elliott’s left, fought back tears with each word Elliott uttered.
“But big smile,” Elliott continued. “Lights up the room. Most people would say because he is the tallest guy in the room, but it’s just his presence. He has a gentleness about him, but he is passionate about what he believes in.
“So, a lot of the stories today were about the silly basketball arguments they would have and debates in the locker room. Everybody knew that they could get Lavel to kind of hunker down just by saying one thing, but the other thing that resonated is just how good of a teammate he was.”
Perry, according to Elliott, was a Renaissance Man of sorts. The fourth-year junior linebacker and defensive end on the football field, could draw, shape pots with clay, loved music and had a terrific sense of humor.
“He was probably the most interesting man on the team,” Elliott said, “if you had to kind of compare him to somebody. I’ve told him that, and I’ve told his teammates that because I value the skills and talents that he possesses beyond the game.”
Chandler, a transfer wide receiver from Wisconsin who was only in his first year with the Cavaliers, was ultra-competitive, Elliott said about how Chandler’s teammates remembered him.
“Loved to compete,” Elliott said as he started to smile through his reflection, “even though the guys revealed that [Chandler] wasn’t very good at video games when he thought he was. But, he loved to compete. And the thing I remember about him is he always brought a smile to my face because he just was happy with where he was.”
There was no decision on Tuesday afternoon regarding the status of Saturday’s game against Coastal Carolina, but as Elliott pointed out, it was still too early to discuss the schedule going forward. Williams said UVa’s athletic staff will, “use our best judgement” when it comes to the game.
Tuesday was about beginning the healing process and sticking together through it as a team. Williams said three in-house psychologists are available to players, too.
“I’ve had my moments where I’ve broken down and showed my emotions,” Elliott said, “and I’ve even had those moments in front of the team. I think it’s important that we all grieve. These are outstanding young men that we don’t understand why they’re gone so early.”