Coach: Slain Virginia football players 'were all good kids'
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Three University of Virginia football players killed in an on-campus shooting were remembered Monday by their head coach as “all good kids."
Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr., and D’Sean Perry were juniors returning to campus from a class trip to see a play Sunday night when authorities say they were killed by a fellow student.
The young men were also members of the Virginia football team, journeying through periods of transition in their careers — whether it was bouncing back from a season-ending injury, changing positions on the team or transferring in from another school.
“They were all good kids,” head football coach Tony Elliott said early Monday afternoon. He said he would talk about the victims “when the time is right."
A couple hours later, teammate Aaron Faumui spoke briefly through tears to reporters as he struggled to make sense of the loss.
“I don’t even know what to say right now," said the college senior who plays defensive tackle. "I just want to say they were three young great men.”
The grief was felt widely, reverberating through football programs across the country — in part because college athletes can move around more with the easing of transfer restrictions. Players from Wisconsin to Utah and Washington state mourned because they had played at Virginia.
“Can’t put into words the physical and mental pain that comes with losing not just teammates, but brothers,” tweeted Wayne Taulapapa, a running back who transferred from Virginia to the University of Washington. “You were never just football players, but rather examples of great and honorable young men.”
The shooting happened just after 10:15 p.m. Sunday as a charter bus full of students returned from seeing a play in Washington. University President Jim Ryan said authorities did not have a “full understanding” of the motive or circumstances surrounding the shooting.
Police on Monday captured a university student, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., 22, whom they say is suspected of shooting the three football players and wounding two others. Jones had once played on the football team, but had not been a member of the team for at least a year, police said.
Davis was a 6-foot-7 wide receiver from Dorchester, South Carolina. He finished the 2020 season ranked No. 2 in the nation and No. 1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference for average yards per reception, among many other accolades.
An undisclosed injury sidelined Davis for 2021 season but he returned this year, starting six of the first seven games. In the season opener against the University of Richmond, Davis caught four passes for 89 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown. He was on a watch list for 2022 Comeback Player of the Year.
Perry was a linebacker from Miami, Florida. In September, Perry told the Daily Progress he was called to the Cavaliers’ football offices where linebackers coach Clint Sintim said he needed Perry to move from linebacker to defensive end.
Perry told the newspaper it was "no problem at all. It was a smooth transition.”
“Honestly, I feel like I can do both (linebacker and defensive end),” Perry said. “And I prepared myself well to work in space and pass rush during the offseason. … So, both positions I’m very comfortable with and I’m just trying to help the team win.”
Perry appeared in seven games this year and made seven tackles.
Chandler was a wide receiver from Huntersville, North Carolina. He recently transferred from Wisconsin. His accomplishments for the Badgers included a 59-yard kickoff return and 18-yard rush in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl against Wake Forest in 2020.
“Once a badger, always a badger,” Jim Leonhard, the University of Wisconsin's interim head football coach, tweeted Monday in the wake of Chandler's death.
“He had a lasting impact on his teammates, even after he left UW, which is a testament to the type of person he was," Leonhard wrote. “His personality was infectious and he was a joy to be around. Our team is hurting for him and his family.”
This story has been corrected to show that Jim Leonhard is the University of Wisconsin's interim head football coach. He is no longer the team's defensive coordinator.
Finley reported from Norfolk, Virginia. Associated Press news researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.