RENTON — With every step that Seahawks rookie Joey Blount took Sunday, carrying the team flag out of the tunnel before the game and running down on kickoffs and punts all the while, they were with him.
And, Blount says, his three former teammates and good friends from the University of Virginia — D’Sean Perry, Devin Chandler, and Lavel Davis Jr. — will stay with him for the rest of his career and life.
Everyone was killed in a shooting in Charlottesville, Virginia on Nov. 13, said Blount — a security guard who was an undrafted rookie free agent on Seattle’s roster this year — as he arrived in Seattle after the Seahawks’ Munich-Tampa Bay game .
“I think about her every day,” Blount said on Wednesday. “And I just now realize that the game of football has a lot of reasons that will motivate you to play – family, friends, goals – but for me my goal became a lot bigger because these three young men should have their dreams there, I’m there and they couldn’t get there, so I want to make sure their fires and flames never burn out.”
Blount, who played at Virginia from 2017-21, honored them in Sunday’s game against the Raiders with specially prepared cleats that included the phrase “UVAStrong” as well as each of their uniform numbers, shoes he plans to wear for the remainder of the season, including Sunday in Los Angeles against the Rams during the NFL’s annual My Cause My Cleats weekend.
“I just felt like I needed something to keep them with me, so I thought about shoes,” Blount said. “Because it’s like ‘my studs, my thing’ is the same week — I thought I was going to do that for them, so I did that right away.”
Blount said he became close to each of the three during his years in Virginia, but especially Perry, who was close to completing his fourth year with the Cavaliers at fullback (Chandler and Davis were each receivers finishing their junior seasons). ).
Perry and Blount’s roommate, Mandy Alonso, attended the same high school, Gulliver Prep in Miami, and Blount said from the minute Perry arrived on campus, the group grew tight.
On Wednesday, he recalled Perry being a studio art student who was particularly interested in pottery and the many moments they shared together when they were just regular college kids when they weren’t playing soccer.
“I had a special relationship with all three, but D’Sean in particular, he was definitely under my wing,” Blount said. “We took him out to dinner, me and my roommate drove him and his roommate around just like a little brother I ended up looking up to. … I have shared some of the fondest memories with him personally. Just because he’s two years younger than me, I’ve often looked up to him for what he’s done in my life, his impact, the way he’s behaved.”
That’s why it was especially important for Blount to attend Perry’s funeral in Miami last weekend, even though it meant three days of physical and emotional strain.
Blount took a Redeye to Miami on Thursday night for viewing and burial on Friday and Saturday, and then another back to Seattle, landed at Sea-Tac after midnight, got a few hours of sleep, and then returned to Lumen Field for Sunday’s game.
Blount said Seattle coach Pete Carroll told him to do whatever he could to manage his emotions and grief.
But Blount said he never considered not playing: “I wanted to play for them, no matter the circumstances I had to go through it.”
Blount, who has six tackles and one fumble recovery in special teams this year, played 14 special team snaps against the Raiders.
“It was real (hard), not only physically but also emotionally hard, because every time I stepped onto the field, I just talked to them in my head, just said a little word like, ‘This piece is for you'” , he said. “I always have to remind myself that this rep isn’t just for me, even when I’m tired, but for other people who were proud of me and wished they could be in the shoes I play for. So it was a very emotional game for me. Physically I was tired – it was a lot of traveling and I was just exhausted from all the emotions and crying I was doing. But it was a statement game.”
With Seattle having their bye after the Tampa Bay game, Blount spent the following week at home in Atlanta. When he came back, Blount said, “I just felt like I wanted to be there.”
He discussed it with Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who he said has “given me a slant and a loving shoulder to talk about it and just understand and listen.”
Attending the funeral, Blount said, allowed him to “close down so I can better deal with it and say my last words to him and his family.”
And it was those words with Perry’s mother and father that he said he will carry with him forever too.
“I saw his dad and mom, hugged them and wasn’t sure if they remembered me because I was the high school friend’s roommate,” Blount said. “But what he told me is something I remember to this day, that his son spoke highly of me and valued my friendship with him just as much, and the way I saw him, he looked at me too , and that’s it was true love, and as a man he thanked me for taking care of his son and for always being there for him. And there were just little things I could hear from his father that made the journey worth it, flying across the country was so worth it just to know that my love for him was returned and that he shared that with his parents and it told someone else about how special our relationship was.”