CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The University of Virginia's home opener against James Madison University on Saturday will be unlike any other as the Cavaliers mark a milestone they never could have imagined.
It will be their first game playing in Scott Stadium since the tragic killing of football players Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry. The three victims were shot in November of last year after returning to Grounds from a class field trip.
A fourth player, Mike Hollins, and another student, Marlee Morgan, were also wounded but survived.
Hollins has been practicing with the team this season after his miraculous recovery. And during their first game in Nashville, he led the team out of the tunnel.
Mike Hollins led Virginia out of the tunnel before today's game🧡— ESPN (@espn) September 2, 2023
Hollins is playing in his first game since he survived a gunshot wound in an on-campus shooting that took the lives of three of his teammates. pic.twitter.com/6nxJHFr2Aq
The last time the team played in Scott Stadium was the night before the tragedy.
The victims will be honored Saturday before the game during a special ceremony at the stadium with their families. The school said the theme of the day will be "UVA Strong" with an "orange out" encouraged for fan attending.
“We promised the family members that we would never forget their loved ones,” athletics director Carla Williams said Tuesday, “and we will keep that promise.”
UVA will wear helmet stickers honoring the three players during the season. The team’s No. 1, 15 and 41 jerseys, which were worn by Lavel, Devin and D’Sean, respectively, will feature Legacy Patches.
The north end zone will feature the UVA Strong logo and the names of Lavel, Devin and D’Sean will be painted on the boundary surrounding the field for the season.
“I’m excited to be back in front of our fans, just to extend my gratitude to them for all the support that they’ve given us throughout the course of this journey since last November,” UVA head coach Tony Elliott said. “I’m hoping that that is going to bring some ease to our players, because it’s going to be emotional. There’s no way around it, and it should be.
The day before the big game, a memorial tree will be planted and a plaque will be dedicated in memory of Davis, Chandler and Perry on the Betsy and John Casteen Arts Grounds between Ruffin Hall and the Drama Education building on Culbreth Road.
JMU's Director of Athletics Jeff Bourne has also encouraged all JMU fans to participate in the UVA Strong theme. JMU players will also adorn honorary helmet stickers.