UVA Strong: Signs of Football Team’s Resilience Evident During Emotional Spring Game

April 16, 2023 By Andrew Ramspacher, fpa5up@virginia.edu Andrew Ramspacher, fpa5up@virginia.edu

When University of Virginia head football coach Tony Elliott first stepped on the Scott Stadium field Saturday, well before kickoff of the Cavaliers’ annual Blue-White Game to conclude spring practices, he was overcome with emotion.

Spelled out in one end zone were the words “UVA STRONG,” sandwiched between the names and numbers of Lavel Davis Jr., Devin Chandler and D’Sean Perry, the three UVA football players who were killed in the Nov. 13 shooting on Grounds.  

Spotting the tribute, Elliott took a moment to reflect.

“We’re the ones fortunate to be on the grass, where three young men are not fortunate to be on the grass and their families will not have a chance to see them play again,” Elliott said. “So, it kind of puts it in perspective.”

Related Story

Saturday’s game was the first time the Wahoos played in front of fans since the tragedy that took three of their teammates and wounded two other students, including football player Mike Hollins. Hollins, a running back, returned to the field Saturday and scored a touchdown.

It all made for a special scene to not only those several thousand in attendance, but for those watching on the Atlantic Coast Conference Network.

“We have a chance to change the world today,” Elliott said of his message to the team, “because a lot of people are tuning in to see, ‘How are the Cavaliers going to respond? What’s this team going to look like?’

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

“So, the spirit that I’ve seen day in and day out (in spring practices), that’s all I wanted them to do, to show the world the spirit that they have.”

In game action, the White team, led by Jack Griese’s 90 rushing yards and two touchdowns, defeated the Blue, 34-19.

UVA Today was on site to capture some of the afternoon’s most uplifting moments.

The north end zone at Scott Stadium was a space of remembrance for Davis Jr., Chandler and Perry. (Photo by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications)
Candid of the team with their heads bowed during a moment of silence
Elliott (in orange) joins arms with his players as the Cavaliers lead a moment of silence observed by everyone in Scott Stadium ahead of Saturday’s kickoff. (Photo by Emily Faith Morgan, University Communications)
Candid photo of offence and defence pushing against each other during the spring game
The Hoos were back playing a game on the Scott Stadium field for the first time since hosting the University of Pittsburgh on Nov. 12, 2022. (Photo by Emily Faith Morgan, University Communications)
Hollins running the ball at the spring game
No player received a bigger ovation Saturday than Hollins. Seen here jumping over a teammate, Hollins was wounded during the Nov. 13 shooting that killed Davis Jr., Chandler and Perry, and spent time in the hospital. He’s made a remarkable recovery. Saturday, the fifth-year student carried 11 times for 40 yards and touchdown. After the score, Hollins ran to the back of the end zone and placed the ball on Perry’s name. (Photo by Emily Faith Morgan, University Communications)
Helmet decals honored Davis Jr. (No. 1), Chandler (No. 15) and Perry (No. 41). (Photo by Emily Faith Morgan, University Communications)
Terry Kirby working as an honorary white team coach at the spring game
Several UVA football alumni were in attendance Saturday, including former All-ACC running back Terry Kirby, who served as the honorary coach for the White team. (Photo by Emily Faith Morgan, University Communications)
In a touching tribute to Perry, UVA kicker Will Bettridge has changed his jersey number from 17 to 41. Bettridge grew up with Perry in Miami and spoke movingly about his friend during a November memorial service at John Paul Jones Arena. (Photo by Emily Faith Morgan, University Communications)
The game was sealed for the White team with John Hurley’s 98-yard interception return for a touchdown. (Photo by Emily Faith Morgan, University Communications)
Hollins recieves an on field hug from his little brother
Deuce Hollins hugs his older brother during an emotional moment following the game. Elliott said Deuce was around the team all week. The coach brought Deuce on the field with him to watch Mike’s touchdown run in the second quarter. (Photo by Emily Faith Morgan, University Communications)
After the game, Elliott had Mike Hollins join him as he addressed the crowd. “This young man inspires me,” Elliott said. “And I know he inspires his family, I know he inspires his football team. And what you’re going to see out of him is he’s going to play with a purpose.” (Photo by Emily Faith Morgan, University Communications)

Media Contact

Andrew Ramspacher

University News Associate University Communications