Head football Coach Tony Elliott and Virginia Cavaliers athletic director Carla Williams addressed the public on Tuesday afternoon for the first time since the shooting deaths of three University of Virginia students and football players, with Elliott recalling the gentleness of Lavel Davis, the humor of D’Sean Perry and the happiness of Devin Chandler.
“Lavel, I’ve known him for a long time. I recruited him to start his freshman year,” Elliott said. “Big smile, lights up the room. Most people would say it’s because he’s the tallest guy in the room, but I say it’s just his presence. He’s got a gentleness about him, but he’s passionate about what he believes in.”
“D’Sean was very, very, very artistic. He could draw. He could shape pots with clay. He loved music. Very, very cultured, a well-rounded artist, a great teammate,” Elliott said. “He had a sense of humor that was one of a kind.”
“Devin was just what you wanted in a young person that’s at this level, but he was just a big kid,” Elliott said. “He smiled all the time, loved to dance, loved some competition. One thing I remember is he always brought a smile to my face because he was just so happy with where he was and comfortable in his own skin.”
Elliott and Williams also took the opportunity to update the community and press corps, packed into the press briefing room at John Paul Jones arena, on how the football team is moving through the grief and shock of losing three cherished teammates to a gunman Sunday night.
“You have a football team that is grieving, that is hurt, but they’re also very self-aware that the situation is bigger than football,” Elliott said. “They understand that football has an opportunity to show its beauty. They understand that this institution and this community has an opportunity to show its beauty through this tragedy.”
Devin Chandler, a second-year from Virginia Beach; Lavel Davis Jr., a third-year student from Ridgeville, South Carolina; and D’Sean Perry, a fourth-year student from Miami, Florida died Sunday night after being shot on a bus after a field trip to Washington, D.C.
Teammate Michael Hollins and UVa student Marlee Morgan also were injured during the attack. One of the survivors was discharged on Tuesday while the other remains in serious condition, said UVa Health public information officer Eric Swensen. Health privacy laws prevent the disclosure of which survivor was discharged.
A lawyer serving as spokesman for the Hollins family, Joe Gipson, said Tuesday that Hollins is still hospitalized but made it through a successful second surgery Tuesday. Also, Hollins has come off of the ventilator that had been providing oxygen to him, Gipson said.
UVa student and ex-football player Christopher Darnell Jones, Jr. is charged in the killing the three and the injuring of Hollins and Morgan. He allegedly shot them on a bus that was returning from a field trip on Sunday night.
University police have said that Jones was mentioned in a hazing report this past September, but Williams said she has no knowledge of a hazing incident taking place among UVa football players.
Elliott said the most common questions among players on the team have been about the well-being of the victims’ families and the right time to interact with them to offer their condolences. Players have also been asking about the future of the season, which Elliott said is yet to be determined.
Elliott has been encouraging team members to lean on one another and cope with the tragic loss of their teammates together.
“We immediately got the team together and just started the process of grieving together and fellowshipping and trying to make sure that nobody was isolated and that everybody was together,” Elliott said. “We pulled all the resources that we could from a counseling standpoint to give these young men the support we need.”
“The first meeting was really, really tough.”
Williams said that the athletic department regularly has three in-house psychologists in addition to a lead sports psychologist for all student athletes to speak with at any time. Williams said the university provided additional counselors to serve the students during the first group meeting since Sunday.
The team is having an easier time turning their pain into celebration of the lives of their fallen friends and teammates as each day passes, Elliott said.
Davis was a wide receiver; Perry a linebacker and defensive end; and Chandler a wide receiver. Hollins is a running back.