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UVA Strong: Moving NFL tribute to Chandler, Davis, Perry another step in mourning process

Chris Graham
uva players nfl draft
UVA alums Melissa Stark and D’Brickashaw Ferguson honor UVA football players Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry at the 2023 NFL Draft. Photo: UVA Athletics

The NFL gets a lot wrong, but the NFL got everything right Thursday night with the moving ceremony minutes before the start of the 2023 NFL Draft honoring slain UVA football student-athletes Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry.

“These men were more than talented athletes. They were valued members of their community, known for their kindness, leadership and determination,” said Melissa Stark, a UVA alum and the host of “NFL 360” on NFL Network, to the more than 100,000 people gathered in Kansas City to take part in the draft festivities.

Chandler, Davis and Perry were murdered in the Nov. 13 mass shooting on Grounds that also injured two other UVA students, including Mike Hollins, who survived and returned to the field for spring practice, scoring a touchdown in the spring game earlier this month.

Joining Stark in honoring the three at the NFL Draft tribute was D’Brickashaw Ferguson, a UVA alum who was the fourth pick in the 2006 NFL Draft and a three-time Pro Bowl player in the NFL with the New York Jets, never missing a game in his 10-year career.

Ferguson told those watching in person and on TV and across the interwebs about Chandler, a transfer from Wisconsin who was redshirting in the fall, with an eye to getting back on the field in the 2023 season.

“Devin Chandler, the son of a military pilot, experienced life throughout the world,” Ferguson said. “Devin’s smile and joy were infectious. He enjoyed making others laugh, especially his parents. During his junior year of high school, it was Devin’s faith and love of football that provided him the strength to play just a few days after his father had passed away. He started that game by scoring a 99-yard touchdown on the first play.”

Davis, a 6’7” wideout who had seemed destined for the NFL from the moment he took the field at Virginia as a true freshman in 2020, had faced his own adversity in 2021, suffering a torn ACL in spring practice that forced him to miss the 2021 season.

Off the field, Davis “was a kind, smart, humble young man who held himself to the highest of standards,” Ferguson said. “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. He was proud of his hometown of Exit 187, Ridgeville South Carolina. He always encouraged those around him, encouraging his siblings and cousins to make good choices.”

D’Sean Perry, a junior linebacker, “was a determined young man, both on and off the football field,” Ferguson said. “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.”

The tear-jerking moment came when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell took the stage.

“All three of these young men had dreams of one day being drafted and playing in the NFL. Tonight, we can make one of those dreams come true,” Goodell said, before inviting the families of the three players to the stage.

“So, to make it official, with the first picks in the 2023 NFL Draft, we welcome to the NFL family D’Sean Perry, Lavel Davis and Devin Chandler of the University of Virginia,” Goodell said, then posed for photos with each of the families, each of which was presented an NFL jersey, emblazoned with the #23.

The issues with the NFL are myriad – not enough Black head coaches, still not enough concern for how head injuries will impact players long after they’re retired, everything involving the Washington NFL team, from the workplace culture on down.

What the NFL did last night meant a lot to the families of the three young men who lost their lives last Nov. 13, and to members of the University of Virginia community who have been mourning those tragic losses with their families, and will continue to mourn.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham, the king of "fringe media," is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].