NFL Makes Slain UVA Football Players Honorary First Picks of Draft

April 28, 2023 By Andrew Ramspacher, Andrew Ramspacher,

In a touching tribute to the three University of Virginia football players who lost their lives in the Nov. 13 shooting on Grounds, Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry were announced as the honorary first picks of the 2023 National Football League Draft on Thursday night in Kansas City.

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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell invited the families of Chandler, Davis and Perry onstage and presented them with jerseys of their sons’ favorite NFL teams.

The tribute, broadcast live on ESPN and NFL Network, began with words from UVA alumna and NFL Network reporter Melissa Stark and another Cavalier, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, a former first-round pick of the New York Jets who played 10 seasons and in three Pro Bowls.

“These men were more than talented athletes,” Stark said. “They were valued members of their community, known for their kindness, leadership and determination.

“As the draft gets ready to start, we remember No. 1 (Davis), 15 (Chandler) and 41 (Perry) and the impact they had on so many in so short a time. They will live on in the hearts and minds of those who knew them, and in the ‘UVA Strong’ community around the world.”

Ferguson highlighted the beautiful qualities that defined all three individuals.

Perry, he said, was a “determined young man both on and off the football field. He loved music, poetry and art. A multi-sport athlete who left an impression on all he came in contact with, D’Sean loved his mother and his siblings deeply. A man of strong faith, he gave back to his community by participating in youth ministries, youth football camps and numerous community giveaway programs.”

Davis, Ferguson said, was a “kind, smart, humble young man who held himself to the highest of standards. His life was grounded in his strong faith in God and his love for his family. And he had a special relationship with his grandparents.”

The proud Ridgeville, South Carolina, native “always encouraged those around him” and always “made good choices,” Ferguson said.

Chandler’s “smile and joy were infectious,” Ferguson said. “He enjoyed making others laugh, especially his parents.”

UVA Strong | 1 • 15 • 41
UVA Strong | 1 • 15 • 41

Ferguson then told a story of Chandler, as a junior in high school, finding the strength to play a football game just a few days after his father passed away. “He started that game by scoring a 99-yard touchdown on the first play.”

“Devin,” Ferguson continued, “not only dominated on the field, he applied that same drive towards everything in his life. Devin’s goal was to play in the NFL for the Jacksonville Jaguars.”

Goodell, standing in front of a large crowd assembled outside Kansas City’s Union Station, then acknowledged how Chandler, Davis Jr. and Perry all had dreams of being drafted and playing in the NFL.

“Tonight,” he said, “we can make one of those dreams come true.”

Media Contact

Andrew Ramspacher

University News Associate University Communications