UVA football tackles tough times through message of unity

Protests in Charlottesville, VA

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - One reason many of us love sports is because they are just that: sports. Games. Games that serve as an oasis from the ugly reality that sometimes occupies our world.

But what if you can't escape? Even through sports? Even if a voyage away from reality is your desire? That is the reality for the UVA football team.

Saturday, as a state of emergency was declared for Virginia, the University of Virginia was ground zero. Public safety concerns in Charlottesville cancelled all university programming at UVA, including football's "Meet the Team" night.

Tuesday, the Cavaliers returned to the practice field and conducted their first interviews since football took a backseat to backlash on and around their campus.

Quin Blanding and Bryce Hall react after a defensive play against the Duke Blue Devils at Wallace Wade Stadium. (Photo: Lance King/Getty Images)

"Our message is one of consistency, unity, embracing diversity and being together," explained Virginia head football coach Bronco Mendenhall. "We focus on respecting one another for difference not separating because of differences."

"We're very diverse as a team," Virginia Beach product Quin Blanding, a star safety for UVA, pointed out. "That's what it's all about, that's what football's all about. We stuck together, we're a brotherhood no matter what color, no matter what race, what religion we believe in - we're all one."

"That's are best way to do our talking is just on the field," said UVA linebacker Micah Kiser. "The most diverse team at this university - the most diverse team in this area. Us doing our best in representing this city is the best we can do."

The 'Hoos stay in a hotel during fall football camp. Mendenhall revealed several protesters spent Saturday night on the second floor in the same hotel, while the football team occupied the third, fourth and fifth floors.