This UVA player was shot just months ago. Now, he's back on the field: 'God has a plan for me'

Posted at 6:29 PM, Mar 21, 2023

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Officially, Mike Hollins ran for 215 yards last year for the Virginia Cavaliers.

It was a much shorter jaunt of about five or six yards that was far more important. That was the distance he traveled to use the restroom by himself in the hospital after being shot on campus last November.

Hollins was one of four UVA football players shot on a bus returning from a field trip to Washington, D.C. last fall. He was the only player who survived. Another student, Marlee Morgan was also shot and also survived.

Hollins initially was told it would be four to six months before he could put his own socks on. He surpassed those expectations almost immediately.

“The second day (after waking up) I got up and went to the restroom like it was normal,” Hollins recalled Tuesday after practice. “The nurse was happy, but kind of cautious about it. The doctors told me, day by day you’re looking better and better.”

Mike Hollins and Mom Brenda
Mike Hollins with mother, Brenda. (November 17, 2022)

The more Hollins worked, the better he felt, at least physically. At first, though, he wasn’t doing it to put a helmet on again.

“Football was the furthest thing from my mind, up until I got back to campus,” Hollins admitted. “I wasn’t capable of thinking of anything else besides everything that went down here on campus.”

His physical rehab was never a concern. But Hollins struggles daily with the memory of his fallen teammates, Lavel Davis Jr., Devin Chandler and DeSean Perry and how to get himself through each day, mentally carrying the thoughts and memories he has.

“It’s a day-by-day process,” Hollins said. “There is no playbook. There is no plan to how it’s done. When you go through something as tragic and traumatic as I did, you feel anxious about it because you’re always looking for a change (in yourself). It’s tough and it’s overwhelming, but I’ve never been one to back down or shy away.”

“This is just another step in my journey."

Hollins does not feel limited at all physically, even though he’s had to relearn how to use some of his core muscles that were damaged in the shooting and in subsequent medical procedures.

Running backs coach Keith Gaither reports that Hollins is at the top of their depth chart at this point in spring practice. It's a remarkable feat given what he’s been through and the fact that he considered transferring from UVA to get a new start elsewhere.

“I feel like anyone would think about leaving after something like that,” Hollins admitted. “I could have transferred, but I didn’t feel that would be handling the situation as best as I could. The best place for me to move forward, is in Charlottesville, with the people who shared that experience with me. No one anywhere in the country feels how we feel in this facility.”

Hollins earned an undergrad degree in American and African-American studies last December. He will earn a master's degree in Higher Education this December in the hopes of helping other athletes with their mental health.

Christopher Darnell Jones Jr, a fellow UVA student and former member of the football team who was on that field trip last fall, faces three counts of second-degree murder and the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

Jones also faces two counts of malicious wounding and other gun-related charges stemming from the shooting of Hollins and Morgan.

Hollins has not unearthed an answer for why this happened and he doesn’t expect to. But he is finding a purpose in his journey.

“I trust that God has a plan for me,” Hollins said. “I’m put in this position for a reason and I’m put in this position to inspire others. And I’m trusting in that.”