On the heels of the University of Georgia’s national championship victory, police are now investigating a fatal single-car car crash early Sunday that killed football player Devin Willock and staff member Chandler LeCroy just hours after the Bulldogs’ triumphant celebration with fans, authorities said.
Shortly before 3 am Sunday, LeCroy, 24, was driving with Willock, 20, and two other passengers near the UGA campus in Athens when the vehicle went off the road, barreling into two power poles and several trees, the Athens-Clarke County Police Department said in a release.
Willock died on the scene and LeCroy died after being taken to a hospital, police said. LeCroy was a football recruiting analyst for UGA, according to her LinkedIn.
A 26-year-old female passenger was seriously injured and a 21-year-old male passenger received minor injuries, according to police. The university confirmed the two surviving passengers are also members of the football program, but did not identify them.
However, the Athens Banner-Herald reported Sunday that Warren McClendon, the Bulldogs’ starting offensive tackle, was the male passenger, citing the player’s father. The father told the newspaper McClendon required stitches on his forehead but is “doing well.”
Earlier Saturday afternoon, Sanford Stadium and the surrounding streets were brimming with ecstatic fans who had come to celebrate the Bulldogs’ second straight national championship. But by the next morning, they had joined the team in mourning the sudden loss of Willock and LeCroy.
Die-hard fan Daniel Dewitt attended Saturday’s victory parade and told CNN Willock was “upbeat and happy” as the team passed throngs of supporters draped in red and black.
“It’s just heartbreaking coming off a celebratory week. And the parade yesterday, getting to see this player and then come to find out he lost his life early this morning, the entire Bulldog nation is at a loss,” Dewitt said.
Photos of the crash site taken by residents who live nearby show a wooden power pole snapped in half and the car’s frame crumpled against an apartment building.
“That car dented like a tin can,” Cecily Pangburn, a resident of the apartment complex told CNN. She described hearing a loud bang when the crash occurred, followed by her power going out.
The investigation into the crash is ongoing, police said. Investigators have asked anyone with information to contact authorities.
The two young UGA team members were remembered by several university leaders as vibrant and valued presences in the football program.
“Devin was an outstanding young man in every way. He was always smiling, was a great teammate and a joy to coach,” head football coach Kirby Smart said in a statement Sunday.
“Chandler was a valuable member of our football staff and brought an incredible attitude and energy every single day,” Smart said.
Support for the Bulldogs also flooded in from across the college football community on Sunday, including from head coaches Brian Kelly of Louisiana State University and Hugh Freeze of Auburn University.
“These two special people meant the world to our football program and athletic department,” UGA athletics director Josh Brooks said in a statement. “We are working with our medical staff and mental health and performance team to ensure our staff and student-athletes have all the support they need during this extremely difficult time.”
Willock, a redshirt sophomore from New Milford, New Jersey, joined the team as a freshman in 2020, according to UGA’s football roster. He played on the offensive line in all 15 of the team’s games this year.
The player spent Saturday with fans, soaking in the victory of last week’s championship win. But one fan in particular got some quality time with Willock in the hours before his death.
Willock met starstruck 7-year-old Camdyn Gonzales after the young fan spotted Willock as he was leaving the Texas Roadhouse restaurant in Athens on Saturday.
The player gave Camdyn a fist bump and let the boy try on his enormous 2021 championship ring.
“He was humble and very appreciative that we knew who he was and wanted to talk to him,” Camdyn’s grandfather, Sam Kramer, said, adding that Willock seemed “so full of life and just happy.”
Dewitt, the fan who saw Willock in Saturday’s parade, told CNN he has a 2021 UGA championship tattoo and plans to get a matching one for this season’s victory. This time, he said, it will feature Willock’s number, 77.