Family of Devin Willock: ‘He will always be loved and never forgotten’

Credit: Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com

Credit: Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com

ATHENS — “Be like Dev.”

That was the message from the Georgia teammates and coaches of Devin Willock. They gathered with Willock’s family and friends at Athens Church this past Saturday for a private ceremony. A video of that ceremony was posted to YouTube by Georgia football earlier this week.

Officiated by team chaplain Thomas Settles, Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart, offensive line coach Stacy Searels and teammates Warren Ericson and Sedrick Van Pran spoke at the hourlong memorial service, which was attended by most of the players. Attendees also heard from Willock’s girlfriend, UGA student Kate Moseley, as well as messages from Settles and Athens Church pastor Sean Seay.

Settles read a message from Willock’s parents, Sharlene and Dave Willock, who attended but were too grief-stricken to speak. Devin Willock, 20, died in a single-vehicle accident Jan. 15.

Smart shared that Willock boarded a Greyhound Bus in his hometown of New Milford, New Jersey, and rode it 16 hours to work out for UGA in Athens.

“He did that twice,” said Smart, the first to speak for the Bulldogs. “I’ve got guys I can’t even get on a bus and ride it to class. ... Dev was different.”

There will be more services for Willock this week back home in New Jersey. There will be a wake at Boulevard Funeral Home (1151 River Road, New Milford) from 5-8 p.m. Thursday, followed by a public memorial service Friday at 11 a.m. at the Community Baptist Church (224 1st St., Englewood, New Jersey). The memorial service will be livestreamed at https://www.rememberingdevinwillock.com/. Willock will be buried at Maple Grove Park Cemetery in South Hackensack, New Jersey.

In Athens, everyone who spoke referenced Willock’s kindness and gentleness, which belied his 6-foot-7, 335-pound body. Several described him as a “gentle giant.”

Ericson played alongside Willock on the offensive line and sat next to him in the team meeting room and in the Bulldogs’ weekly devotional services inside the Butts-Mehre Football Complex.

“His best quality always was his love and kindness for others,” said Ericson, who said Willock recently volunteered to help him move furniture from his upper-floors apartment. “Devin would do anything for anyone.”

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The accident happened hours after Georgia celebrated its second consecutive football national championship with a parade and ceremony at Sanford Stadium.

Georgia recruiting analyst Chandler LeCroy was driving the vehicle when it went off the road and struck two utility poles and multiple trees. Willock was ejected from the car and died at the scene. LeCroy, 24, also was killed in the accident. Teammate Warren McClendon and Tory Bowles, another member of the Georgia football recruiting department, also were in the vehicle and survived the accident.

“This is one of the most difficult times we as an organization has ever had to deal with,” Smart said. “I come to speak to Sharlene and Dave on behalf of our team, our university, every part of our organization. ... These players’ lives were deeply impacted by your son.”

Sharlene Willock asked everyone listening to “love harder, hug more often, be more swift in having a kind word or lending a helping hand. I ask that people honor your memory by adopting these principles and always keeping (Devin) in their heart.”

Moseley said she began dating Willock 2 ½ years ago, and they planned to get married and have kids.

“You’ll live in my memory the rest of my life,” she said.

According to his obituary, Willock was born in the Bronx, New York, and moved with his family to New Jersey when he was 4 years old. While growing up in New Milford, Devin attended Berkley School, Gibbs School and New Milford High School. He would later transfer to Paramus Catholic High School, where he excelled on the football field and earned a scholarship to Georgia.

As an offensive lineman who played guard and tackle for the Bulldogs, he helped them win back-to-back national championships. Willock played all 15 games this past season, starting two.

“Beyond his accomplishments on the football field his family wants Devin to be remembered for his kindness and smile, knowing he will always be loved and never forgotten,” his obituary reads.

In addition to his parents, Devin is survived by brother Dave Willock II, grandparents Yvonne and Lennox John and Delores Christian, aunts Cathy and Tracey John, Ceiley Stout, Beverley Willock, Natalie Southwell and Eureka Roberts, uncles Bradley John, Derrick, Goodwin, Earl, Richie, Kenny, Byron and Elmors Willock.