By PAUL NEWBERRY
Georgia offensive lineman Devin Willock and a recruiting staff member were killed early Sunday in a car wreck, the school said, just hours after the Bulldogs celebrated their second straight national championship with a parade and ceremony.
Two other members of the football program were injured in the crash, which occurred in Athens, south of the Georgia campus. They were not immediately identified, but the school said both were in stable condition.
ESPN reported that another offensive lineman, Warren McLendon, was among the injured. The junior announced Saturday he was entering the NFL draft.
The single-vehicle wreck occurred at approximately 2:45 a.m., according to a statement from the Athens-Clarke County police department.
The initial investigation found that a Ford Expedition “left the roadway, striking two power poles and several trees,” the statement said.
The 20-year-old Willock was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the vehicle, 24-year-old Chandler LeCroy, was transported to a hospital, where she died from her injuries.
LeCroy was a recruiting analyst for the Bulldogs.
On Saturday, Georgia marked its 65-7 rout of TCU in the national championship game with a parade through town and a ceremony at Sanford Stadium.
The joyous mood quickly turned to grief.
“We are all heartbroken and devastated with the loss of Devin Willock and Chandler LeCroy,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “Devin was an outstanding young man in every way. He was always smiling, was a great teammate and a joy to coach.”
Smart said LeCroy was “a valuable member of our football staff and brought an incredible attitude and energy every single day. We grieve with their families for this tragic loss and will support them in every way possible.”
Police said the wreck was still under investigation and they have not determined what factors may have contributed to the crash. It may be several days before an accident report is issued.
Willock was a 6-foot-7, 335-pound redshirt sophomore from New Milford, New Jersey.
He played extensively as a backup during the 2022 season and started at right guard in Southeastern Conference victories over Tennessee and Kentucky.
With McClendon and offensive lineman Warren Ericson headed to the NFL draft, Willock likely would have been competing for a starting position in 2023 as the Bulldogs go for a third straight national title.
Athletic director Josh Brooks said Willock and LeCroy were “two special people” who “meant the world to our football program and athletic department.”
“We will continue to honor their memory in the years to come,” Brooks added.
Police said a 21-year-old male passenger sustained minor injuries and a 26-year-old female passenger sustained serious injuries. “We will continue to monitor their status with medical personnel,” the school said.
Georgia also said its mental health and performance personnel would “make sure we are providing the best support possible for our staff and student-athletes who are processing this grief.”
Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey, who spoke at the championship celebration, tweeted that Willock’s death was “incredibly sad news and we join in sharing our sympathies, prayers and support.”
Another Georgia player, linebacker Nolan Smith, said Willock’s death “hurt my heart.”
“All I have to say the GREAT ONES LEAVE (TOO) SOON,” Smith tweeted. “@DevinWillock I LOVE YOU FOREVER.”
A few hours before his death, Willock retweeted a post that showed him taking time with a young Georgia fan at what appeared to a restaurant, even letting the youngster wear his championship ring.
“Special thank u to @DevinWillock for taking time for my grandson when he didn’t have to,” the tweet said. “U went out of ur way to make him feel special and U made his day!! Good luck next year! Go Dawgs!”
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/ap_top25
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