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Devin ChandlerLavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry were junior students returning to campus from a class trip to see a play on Sunday night when authorities say they were killed by a fellow student.

From left: Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry. Three Virginia football players were killed in a shootout Sunday in Charlottesville, Virginia, as they were returning from a class trip to a play. University of Virginia Athletics via AP

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia (AP) — The three University of Virginia football players killed in a campus shooting were remembered Monday by their head coach as “incredible young men with huge aspirations and an incredibly bright future.”

Devin ChandlerLavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry were junior students returning to campus from a class trip to see a play on Sunday night when authorities say they were killed by a fellow student.

The young men went through various transitional periods in their sporting careers. Davis was recovering from a season-ending injury. Perry recently changed position. And Chandler moved from Wisconsin.

“They touched us, inspired us and worked incredibly hard,” football coach Tony Elliott said in a statement.

Their absence was already felt on campus, prompting American Studies professor Jack Hamilton tweet on Monday that he was “simply stunned and devastated and completely lost.”

Hamilton had Chandler and Davis as students.

“In my experience, sports stars often hang out with other athletes (which is understandable given the time commitment),” Hamilton wrote. “But (Davis) seemed to go out of his way to make friends with non-athletes.”

As the tragedy echoed across campus on Monday, the head football coach was seen sitting alone at a table outside the university’s football offices, head in his hands.

“They were all good kids,” Elliott said before getting into an SUV with several other coaches.

Hours later, teammate Aaron Faumui spoke briefly through tears.

“I don’t even know what to say now,” said a college senior who plays defensive. “I just want to say that they were three young, wonderful men.

The sadness was felt widely, permeating soccer programs across the country – in part because college athletes are able to move more thanks to the easing of transfer restrictions. Players from Wisconsin to Utah and Washington state mourned because they played in Virginia.

“Words cannot express the physical and mental pain that comes with losing not only teammates but brothers,” tweeted Wayne Taulapapa, a runner who transferred from Virginia to the University of Washington. “You were never just footballers, but rather examples of great and honorable young men.”

LAVEL DAVIS JR.

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Lavel Davis Jr. of Virginia celebrates scoring a touchdown against Richmond in Charlottesville, Virginia on September 3, 2022. – Mike Kropf/The Daily Progress via AP, file

On Monday morning, Lavel Davis Sr. posted a message on Facebook: “Lord, please help me.”

Davis was a 6 foot 7 foot wide receiver from Dorchester, South Carolina. His major was indecisive at the College of Arts and Sciences. Davis finished the 2020 season ranked 2nd in the nation and 1st in the Atlantic Coast Conference for average yards per reception, among many other honors.

An undisclosed injury ruled Davis out of the 2021 season, but he returned this year, starting six of his first seven games. In the season opener against the University of Richmond, Davis caught four passes for 89 yards, including a touchdown for 56 yards. He was on the watch list for returning player of the year 2022.

Herman Moore, who befriended Davis as an alumni mentor, said Davis hoped to end his college career on a high note after recovering from his injury.

Davis had NFL aspirations, Moore said. But he also thought about a life outside of sports, perhaps in business. However, the future was not yet decided.

“He wanted to be recognized as the best receiver in the country,” said Moore. “And he felt he had all the tools and athleticism to do it.”

DEVIN CHANDLER

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Devin Chandler plays for Wisconsin, September 4, 2021. – Andy Manis/AP, File

Chandler was a wide receiver from Huntersville, North Carolina who was known for always smiling and always dancing. Recently moved from Wisconsin. His major in Virginia was undecided at the College of Arts and Sciences. Chandler’s achievements for the Badgers included a 59-yard return and an 18-yard rush in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl against Wake Forest in 2020.

Hamilton, a professor of American studies, said on Twitter that Chandler attended one of his big lectures.

“Still, he came to see me on numerous occasions during working hours, often just to ask questions about how UVA worked,” Hamilton wrote.

The professor later helped Chandler declare a major in American Studies.

“He was an incredibly nice person, always smiling broadly, really outgoing and funny,” Hamilton wrote. “One of those people you just can’t dislike.”

Ethan Johnson, who had known Chandler since high school, said “he was a cool guy around. He always danced. always dance.

Johnson is two years younger than Chandler. But they spent a season together on the high school football team, and Johnson covered Chandler every day as a cornerback during practice. Last summer, the young men practiced together at their former high school.

“And he was there telling me how much difference he sees in me. How much I’ve grown. How I’ve improved as a player,” said Johnson, who is now a freshman defenseman at Appalachia. “He was the type of guy. He always tried to lift people’s spirits. … That was also the last time I saw him.”

Jim Leonhard, the interim head football coach of the University of Wisconsin, tweeted Monday that Chandler “had a lasting influence on his teammates, even after leaving UW, which speaks volumes about the kind of person he was.”

“His personality was contagious and fun to be around,” said Leonhard. “Our team is suffering because of him and his family.”

D’SEAN PERRY

Perry was a defense attorney from Miami. His specialty was studio art. In September, Perry told the Daily Progress that he had been summoned to the Cavaliers football office. Defensive coach Clint Sintim said he needed Perry to transition from defender to defender.

Perry told the newspaper that “there’s no problem. It was a smooth transition.”

“Honestly, I feel like I can do both (lineman and defender),” Perry said. “And I prepared myself well for working in space and the rush of the off-season. … So I feel very comfortable in both positions and just try to help the team win.”

Perry has made seven appearances this year and has had seven tackles.

Michael Haggard, Perry’s parents’ attorney, issued a statement thanking the communities of South Florida and Charlottesville for “an outpouring of support at this impossibly tragic time.”

“At this time, Happy and Sean will not speak publicly about this incident as their grief is just beginning and out of respect for the University of Virginia community that has been terrorized by another mass shooting in the United States,” the statement read.

MIKE HOLLINS

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Mike Hollins of the Virginia Cavaliers rushes during a game against North Carolina at Scott Stadium, November 5, 2022, in Charlottesville, Virginia. – Ryan M. Kelly / Getty Images

Mike Hollins, the football team’s defenseman who was also shot, was in stable condition on Monday, his mother Brenda Hollins told The Associated Press.

“Mike is a fighter – and he shows it,” she said after arriving in Virginia from Louisiana. “We have great doctors who worked with him. And most importantly, we have God’s grace and God’s hands on him.”

Like most college football players, Hollins has aspirations to play professionally, his mother said. But he has other dreams and goals, which include being an educator.

“We are praying for other families,” she said.

___

Finley reported from Norfolk, Virginia. Associated Press news researcher Rhonda Shafner of New York and sports writer Steve Reed of Charlotte, North Carolina contributed to this report.

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