Paying tribute to dead

ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:26 AM ET

Jim Davis isn't sure how he'll do it, or where.

All he wants is the chance to figure it out.

Less than two months after watching his alma mater under siege on CNN following the biggest mass murder in U.S. history, the 25-year-old Virginia Tech grad is still trying to find a way to honour the 32 people killed by a gunman whose name isn't worthy of being written again.

"I'm going to have a symbol somewhere -- I'm not sure if I'm allowed to but I'm going to have something close to my heart just to have something to remember to them," said the Stampeders' 6-ft. 3-in., 275-lb. defensive line hopeful, who will forever refer to his fellow Hokies as "we."

"When you grow up in a school for five years it becomes a part of you and it's something you don't want to let go.

"I talked to coach (Frank) Beamer and they're going to dedicate this year to the memory of those people who died. Hopefully we can do those kids proud and the state proud."

The Virginia native got first wind of the tragedy through a series of phone calls informing him two people had been shot in a dorm.

The ongoing reports he and the rest of the world got as the day progressed painted the grimmest of scenarios that had a nation in mourning.

"My phone wouldn't stop ringing and when you get worse and worse news of all the violence it kind of takes the breath out of you," said Davis who was vacationing in Florida at the time.

"I couldn't believe it. My first thought was to call coach Beamer and several players I knew. Luckily -- I don't mean luckily -- but no one I knew was hurt. (Nor were any of the football team's 110 players.) When something like that happens to your school it just hurts so bad. There's a lot of pride there. Virginia Tech is such a close-knit community."

Hitting home even closer is the fact Norris Hall, the building in which the gunmen locked his victims in, was one Davis was extremely familiar with.

"I had lots of classes in there," said Davis, shaking his head. "It's such a big building and once I heard where it happened I thought 'it's going to be hard for guys to get out of there.' To find out he went through there was tough. I sat back and said a prayer."

After playing one season with Michael Vick as the Hokies quarterback and two more with troubled brother Marcus Vick at the helm, Davis signed as an undrafted free agent with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2005.

A rookie campaign spent largely on the practice roster was followed by knee problems in camp last year that prevented him from dressing in 2006. He was released in December, prompting him to try prolonging his football career by signing with Calgary last week.

"The guy I was battling with (Bobby McCray) had 10 sacks that year and needless to say you know how that goes," shrugged Davis, who is in the midst of a wide-open competition for starting spots on the Stamps d-line.

"Originally coming in I was worried about the league and the 3-4 scheme but after talking to the coach they reassured me the game and scheme will fit the style I play. It's similar to what we played at Virginia Tech and Jacksonville. I'm not a rookie by any means. I just want a chance to show what I can do. I'm ready for anything they put in front of me."

Given what his alma mater went through Apr. 16 you tend to believe him.


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