“I Could See Him Lift The Gun … All I Could Do Was Pray” | UVA Shooter Survivor Mike Hollins Shares Details Of Tragedy That Left Three Teammates Dead

Image Credit: The Pivot

In an especially thought-provoking and emotionally poignant conversation, University of Virginia running back Mike Hollins shared details of the tragedy that left him in the hospital and three of his teammates dead in an all-new episode of “The Pivot Podcast.”

 Hollins hasn’t spoken on the horrifying experience until now.

The tragic shooting deaths of UVA football players Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry left in its wake a trail of victims still living and grieving, with few as affected as Hollins, who suffered injuries from a gunshot that damaged his kidneys and small intestine.

Former NFL star and the show’s co-host Ryan Clark was among the many with connections to the incident, as he knew Hollins personally for years through his son Jordan. Alongside co-hosts Channing Crowder and Fred Taylor, Clark delivered a message at the outset of the episode stating their gratitude for the opportunity to help Hollins share his story.

Mike Hollins Speaks About Tragic UVA Shooting

“We’re truly blessed to have this opportunity and this platform, to give Mike the space to share his thoughts,” said Clark. “Tragedies like this touch entire communities, entire universities, entire culture and entire worlds.”

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Speaking with emotion raging in his eyes, the heroic Hollins shared in detail the entire series of events, which started with a university field trip to Washington, D.C., and ended in unfathomable, chilling terror, where he stood face to face with the gunman.

 “We locked eyes and I just felt so hopeless in that moment,” said Hollins. “I can’t even explain it. It felt like he had all the power in that moment, even though I’ve never been a physically vulnerable person ever. … I couldn’t do anything. I knew my boys were in there and I didn’t know if they were alive or breathing. Once we locked eyes, it felt like all of that immediately went through my mind before I could take off running.

 “I could see him lift the gun when I turned while I was running. And all I could do was pray. I felt him hit me in my back, but he was going to have to hit me more than once for me to stop. I was still running and I ran through and into a parking garage and I didn’t see him chasing me no more. I was still feeling like I was in a movie or something, and I had a bullet hanging out of my stomach. … All I could remember was being on the bus listening to gospel music 15 minutes ago.”

When Terror Strikes

Hollins detailed how he for the second time ran back toward the incident, before eventually running into a pre-med student who helped tend to his wound until an ambulance arrived. He then explained how he woke up two and a half days later with questions about his teammates’ well-being at the forefront of his mind.

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“I had all the questions in the world with no answers,” said Hollins. “I woke up two and half days later, with 36 staples in my chest, tube in my throat. Still no answers to anything and my teammates’ families had been grieving without me. It was tough waking up in that hospital two days later. But I knew that I was blessed, and I knew that I was here for a reason.”

 Admitting that he was someone who previously kept his emotions bottled up, Hollins shares with the group how he’s been working day by day to reacclimate and recover mentally from the scarring incident. This work has included consulting with the team’s sports psychologist, the school’s chaplain and more, although he admits that his days are still up and down.

 Everyday Struggle

“It’s day by day and it comes in waves,” said Hollins. “When it comes, you feel so weak. You can’t really control your emotions when they hit you. I always thought that tragedy would make you stronger. As soon as you start recovering, you should feel yourself getting stronger. But it feels like the opposite sometimes. … Moving on is what makes you stronger. It’s just getting to that point is hard. Right now some days are great, but some days it feels like it just happened yesterday. I’m just trying to build up that mental strength to keep going.”

 Part of what Hollins says has helped in his emotional recovery, is talking with the families and loved ones of his fallen teammates. While he confesses that those conversations are difficult, they serve as therapy on his path to rejuvenation.

 “Keeping people close who have that same emotional attachment as me, has really helped,” said Hollins. “Talking with the families of those teammates that I lost, it’s a really hard part of it, but it’s refreshing every time. Seeing their strength and the strength of all our moms, seeing all those black women come together in this tragedy is both awesome and it sucks. Every day it’s easier to maintain leveled emotions, but when they come, I can’t control them.”

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“Finding a way to have those that we lost shine through me, is a huge motivation,” said Hollins. “If I roll over now, then I wouldn’t be justifying their lives. They were so bright and so young, it wouldn’t be right to roll over and not keep their flame lit…I want it to be as if they’re still here. I don’t know how I’m going to do it. My motivation is to exceed the heights that they envisioned for themselves. I never want to disappoint.”

As the episode nears a close, Clark asks a difficult question of Hollins, inquiring what he would say if he could talk to the person who killed his teammates. Hollins says he looks at the situation from the perspective of how many people it has affected.

 “First, I would ask if It ever crossed his mind how many people this would affect?” said Hollins. “Also, I hate to say why, but what would provoke him and what was going on in his life that made him think that this was the only answer. Knowing those answers would help a lot of people in the future not make the same mistake. I can’t imagine someone knowing that hundreds of people would be affected, that they’d make that same decision.”

The show closes on a lighter note, as the co-hosts present Hollins with a signed boxing glove from Mike Tyson in celebration of Hollins’ birthday. 

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.