Following the November shooting on Grounds that claimed the lives of Virginia football players Lavel Davis Jr., Devin Chandler and D’Sean Perry, the athletic department has worked tirelessly to ensure their legacies are honored. Ahead of Saturday afternoon’s kickoff that marks the Cavaliers’ first time taking the field since the tragedy, the team announced jersey patches for players wearing the numbers 1, 15 and 41 — the former numbers of Davis Jr., Chandler and Perry.
“One thing I wanted from us as a program is to make sure their legacies are visible every time we step on the field,” Coach Tony Elliott said. “That was the motivation behind the patches that are going to be on 1, 15 and 41.”
The diamond patches will feature the Virginia V-Sabre logo, the players’ time spent as a Cavalier, their name and their number. In total, four players will don jerseys with the patches— senior defensive end Paul Akere, freshman wide receiver Suderian Harrison, sophomore kicker Will Bettridge and graduate student defensive end Chico Bennett.
Akere and Bennett inherited the patch, as they served as the defensive jersey number counterparts to Davis Jr. and Chandler last year and kept their numbers. Meanwhile, Harrison received the No. 1 jersey on offense as an incoming freshman because of his personal connection to Davis Jr.— both graduated from Woodland High School out of Dorchester, S.C.
“[Harrison] understands the responsibility of being [from] that same high school,” Elliott said. “[He] had a relationship with Lavel prior to coming to Virginia.”
Bettridge will don the legacy patch this year for a similar personal connection between himself and Perry. The pair played together at Gulliver Prep in Miami, with Perry acting as a mentor and influencing the five-star kicking recruit’s decision to commit to Virginia. Bettridge spoke about Perry’s impact on him at last year’s memorial service.
“I admired you the whole way through and I could not be more proud of your success,” Bettridge said at the memorial. “You were a rockstar in the community, giving back and helping others ahead of you, and doing everything for everyone before yourself.”
Bettridge changed his number ahead of this season from No. 17 to No. 41 to pay tribute to Perry and will wear the patch accordingly.
“[Bettridge] was excited about the opportunity,” Elliott said. “You see that every day. He carries himself in a way [so] as to represent D'Sean.”
Moving forward, Elliott ensured that the families of the deceased will be consulted to determine the next players to wear their numbers for the Cavaliers, calling it a “selection process.”
In addition to the legacy patches, each member of Virginia will have a helmet decal to pay respects to the trio. Tennessee also wore helmet decals in the season opener between the two squads, and a moment of silence was observed in Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn. before the game.
“Obviously, a horrific tragedy [sic] took place there on their campus,” Tennessee Coach Josh Heupel said. “They’ve had a long time to try to grow through that and you also recognize what happened.”