Members of the UVa Football Program pay their respects to Davis Jr., Perry and Chandler during a memorial service

This afternoon there were no touchdowns or tackles, no fight songs or tailgates.

Scott Stadium, about a mile and a half from here, was empty and silent.

Instead, the Virginia football team gathered with a packed but somber crowd of 9,075 at John Paul Jones Arena to honor the three fallen Cavaliers – wide receivers Lavel Davis Jr. and Devin Chandler and linebacker and defensive end D’Sean Perry – tragically killed during last Sunday’s shooting on Grounds.

And on the saddest of all autumn Saturdays, when the sounds of Amazing Grace and God’s goodness filled the room, the Hoos managed to find the strength and the words that would have made their former teammates proud.

Fourteen members of the Virginia football team as well as first-year coach Tony Elliott spoke at the ceremony. Another, safety Langston Long, sang of his pain with the Virginia Gentlemen Choir as onlookers – some in formal wear, others in their UVa gear and even some wearing jerseys with Davis’ No. 1 on the front and back – dropped into the building and took their places.

People also read…

“To my three young kings,” Elliott said, “I am eternally grateful.”

Elliott, a man of faith, read a passage from First Corinthians, Chapter 15, Verse 41 to match the text to the jersey numbers of Davis, Chandler and Perry. Elliott said the verse – “The sun has a kind of splendor. The moon another and the stars another. And stars differ from stars in their splendor. – has brought him comfort in recent days.

“This is further proof that we serve a faithful God,” Elliott told the crowd. “Numbers alone bring me peace.”

Cavaliers kicker Justin Duenkel read the opening prayer and defensive end Jack Camper read the closing prayer.

In between, the UVa players – along with Elliott and athletic director Carla Williams – shared the stories and memories they had of Davis, Chandler and Perry and the influence each of them had on the lives left behind. behind.

“We’re better and we’ll do better thanks to Devin, Lavel and D’Sean,” Williams said. “To the families, we love your sons. We will ensure that their legacy never fades at the University of Virginia.

Linebacker Hunter Stewart, before reading poet Langston Hughes’ “Life is Fine,” said of Davis, Chandler and Perry, “The impact they had on all of us didn’t end. It will always last.

Running back Cody Brown detailed how “Chandler’s smile alone was enough to brighten everyone’s day.” Defensive lineman Lorenz Terry said Chandler always finds a way to make people laugh.

Defensive end Chico Bennett Jr., cornerback Elijah Gaines and quarterback Jared Rayman recalled how Davis, the 6-foot-7 star, was so determined to thrive on the field. Rayman said Davis was the type to lead by example and the “first in the establishment and the last to leave”.

Bennett, who last year in his first season at UVa was recovering from an ACL injury at the same time Davis was defending against his own ACL injury, called Davis “my best friend.” The two had spent a lot of time together in the training room.

“He had the kind of smile that you couldn’t help but smile too,” Bennett said through tears, “…and I wish I could see that smile one more time.”

Cavaliers kicker Will Bettridge, a longtime friend and teammate of Perry’s who dates back to their younger football days in South Florida through their overlap at Gulliver Prep in Miami and on UVa, made sure to tell the Perry’s parents how much he loved their son.

Bettridge said of Perry, “You have been a role model to me and a mentor to me. I wanted to be like you.

Bettridge said he decided to attend UVa because of Perry and because he noticed how Perry was maturing with the Cavaliers and enjoying his time with them.

Stewart, linebacker Nick Jackson, defensive back Donovan Johnson, linebacker Josh McCarron and defensive tackle Ben Smiley III also shared stories of Perry, “The Renaissance Man,” whose talents extended beyond football to art and music.

Elliott at the end of his remarks, was eager and elevated.

“The crying will last the rest of the night,” Elliott said, “but great joy comes in the morning. Because of 1, 15, and 41, we have a responsibility to rebuild this community and program on the legacy of their stars and to do so in a way that brings light to the world. Lavel, Devin, D’Sean, I look forward to the strength, motivation, courage and love you all bring as we triumph in the coming days.

Ryan H. Bowman