BLACKSBURG — Da’Wain Lofton’s mother called him Monday afternoon. Just to check in. Just to hear his voice.
The Virginia Tech wide receiver had seen the tragic news on Twitter: Virginia football players Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry had been shot and killed in Charlottesville late Sunday night.
A Texas native, Lofton didn’t know any of the victims. He didn’t need to.
“It’s been a very tragic situation, especially being so close to here,” Lofton said. “It’s been very hard to stay focused on football, especially knowing that those kids had bright futures.
“I feel like it does change your perspective on life, because it does make you more appreciative, especially with Thanksgiving coming up. It’s going to be hard for those families not to have those individuals there.”
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The Hokies returned to practice on Tuesday with heavy hearts. Monday was their regularly scheduled off day — one they spent grieving unspeakable loss at their rival school.
Tech coach Brent Pry exchanged texts with UVa coach Tony Elliott on Monday. He was at a loss for words but wanted to send his support.
“That I’m thinking about him,” Pry said Tuesday, when asked about his message to Elliott. “I can’t imagine. And if there’s anything at all, don’t hesitate to ask. We’re here for you. I told him I loved him. And we’re here for you and your team.”
Pry opened his regular Tuesday news conference with a lengthy prepared statement expressing condolences and offering support to UVa. Most of the reporters’ questions were not about the upcoming game against Liberty, but rather about how he and his team are processing the news from two hours away.
“We’re preparing and doing the things we need to do, but there’s a need and a want to support and to know and to message,” Pry said. “One of our players comes through, you’re not just going to go about your business. You’re going to pull him in and sit him down. You’re going to talk about it. So it’s certainly been in our building the last 24 hours.”
It will continue to be. Tech administrators have begun discussions on how the Hokies can show their support to UVa when they return to the field Saturday.
Pry has spent much of the past two days giving hugs.
“I love the game of football, but moreso I love what it brings out in people and what we’re teaching these guys,” Pry said. “That’s really where it’s at to me: the brotherhood, the family, the being there for one another.
“My heart absolutely aches for Coach Elliott. Going through a year like we’re going through, and then to have something like this happen for he and his staff and their football community, their football family, it’s devastating.”
The Hokies have two scheduled games left, including the season finale against UVa. Pry hopes the structure of practices and games will help his players cope with their sadness.
“We’ve talked about that a little bit this morning and yesterday, just moving forward and using the sport of football as a vehicle to help heal, and togetherness and opportunity to show support for one another while still battling on the court or on the gridiron,” Pry said. “Just to be able to do both, but also just to understand — kind of like in my opening statement — it’s about more than football. I think that resonates and reminds everybody of that.”