TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Hearing the news about a mass shooting is never easy, but for the south Florida community, hearing about Sunday night’s mass shooting at the University of Virginia was something of a nightmare.

The shooting occurred when the suspected gunman, a former UVA football player Christopher Darnell Jones Jr. opened fire on a bus returning from a field trip killing three football players -Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr., and D’Sean Perry.

Running back Mike Hollins was also shot along with another student. Hollins is currently hospitalized due to his injuries.

In the wake of the shooting, community members have been reflected and honoring the lives of the three star athletes who were taken too soon, including Florida native D’Sean Perry.

Perry committed to the University of Virginia on a full scholarship. He was a junior linebacker and defensive end. In 2018, he was named the South Florida Conference’s 2018 Defensive Player of the Year as a senior at Gulliver Prep. He finished the year with 89 tackles, 16 of which were for loss, as well as three sacks and three interceptions.

During a Thursday morning press conference, representatives for the Perry family spoke and remembered the light that was D’Sean Perry.

Lawyer Michael Haggard spoke at the press conference as he’s worked with many families that suffered losses due to mass shootings, but he said this one is different for him as his son played high school football with Perry at Gulliver Prep.

“My daughter, my son, and thousands of other kids across the country from Gulliver, from Richmond Heights, from the University of Virginia are mourning this loss of this tremendous light in our lives, which was D’Sean,” said Haggard.

Haggard described the linebacker as kind with an incredible character and an uncanny sense of humor. He said that the first thing people noticed about him was his “unbelievable smile.”

The junior linebacker, who was getting ready to graduate in the spring planned on getting his Master’s degree in the arts. He had two years of football eligibility left to also purse his dream of going to the NFL.

“[He] played an incredibly tough football game in the ACC on Saturday. On his one day off, on Sunday, the one day off a major college football player gets, he goes on a field trip to go watch the Emmett Till play in Washington D.C. That’s the type of student he was,” said Haggard.

Perry’s former high school coach at Gulliver Prep, Earl Sims said that Perry was like a son to him. Sims and his colleagues described Perry as a “delightful, respectful, hardworking person, who was one of the best overall young men our communities had to offer.”

“He was like a son to me,” said Sims. “He was a gentle giant, who added value and purpose to my life as well as others. He will truly be missed, but we’ll make sure his legacy lives on.”

The head coach gave a powerful remembrance speech in Perry’s memory and, before stepping away from the podium, read a few pieces Perry had written for high school assignments.

Perry had touched on something bigger than him in the first assignment: “I chose ‘Bigger Than Me’ by Big Sean to represent my junior year because I had an epiphany. I had an epiphany that when we were in football practice, we were practicing with teams from the middle school. One kid came up to me and said, ‘I wanna be just like you when I go to high school.’ I realized that it’s not just about me in the sense of what I want to do, but the people that helped me get to where I am right now and those who look up to me to this day. I know my parents have done all they could to get me into this school and give me everything that I have today. So in return, whatever I do in the future, I will make sure that whoever has helped me become successful will receive something in return. All I want to do  is make my family and the city I’m from proud.”

The next piece that Sims shared highlighted a time where Perry was an underdog. Sim’s said the intro was a testament to Perry’s life.

He read: “Imagine a situation where no one believed in you. Imagine every odd stacked against you and it looks like you will never get the job done. Critics telling you that you are nothing and you will never win anything. This is what being an underdog feels like. I’ve been in many situations where I or the team I was playing on were considered underdogs. But even though there was hate and adversity, we turned it into motivation and overcame those odds. Many people didn’t believe in our team. People called us ‘too small’ or ‘a team without much talent,’ many didn’t believe what we could do, but we proved them wrong anyway. My favorite example of being the underdog and proving everyone wrong would be my first homecoming game of my high school football career. One that I won’t forget for as long as I live.”

At the end of the press conference, Haggard stated that the worst part about this is that it will happen again. Earlier in the meeting, he asked “when is enough going to be enough in this country?”

Haggard stated, “The worst part of this is that everybody in this room, everybody watching this news conference knows there is going to be another mass shooting in the United States. If not today, tomorrow, we all know that. As a society, we have to do something.” 

He also added that the Perry family, like many families that have lost loved ones from mass shootings, will be advocates for ending these senseless acts.