ASSOCIATED PRESS

Georgia wide receiver Devin Wheelock and a recruiting staff member were killed early Sunday in a car crash, the school said, just hours after the Bulldogs celebrated their second straight national championship with a parade and ceremony.

Two other members of the football program were injured in the crash, which occurred in Athens just south of the Georgia State campus. They were not immediately identified, but the school said both were in stable condition.

ESPN reported that another forward, Warren McLendon, was among the injured. The junior announced Saturday that he is entering the NFL draft.

The one-vehicle crash occurred at approximately 2:45 a.m., according to a statement from the Athens-Clarke County Police Department.

An initial investigation revealed that the Ford Expedition “went off the roadway, striking two utility poles and several trees,” according to the statement.

Wheelock, 20, was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the car, 24-year-old Chandler LeCroy, was taken to the hospital, where she died of her injuries.

LeCroy was a recruiting analyst for the Bulldogs.

Georgia marked Saturday’s 65-7 rout of TCU in the national championship game with a parade around town and a ceremony at Sanford Stadium.

The joyful mood was quickly replaced by sadness.

“We are all heartbroken and devastated by the loss of Devin Wheelock and Chandler LeCroy,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “Devin was an outstanding young man in every way. He was always smiling, a great teammate and a joy to coach.”

Smart said LeCroy was “a valuable member of our football staff and brought an incredible attitude and energy every day. We mourn this tragic loss with their families and will support them in every way we can.”

Police said the wreck is still under investigation and have not determined what factors may have contributed to the crash. It may take several days before an accident report is issued.

Wheelock was a 6-foot-7, 335-pound redshirt sophomore from New Milford, New Jersey.

He played a lot as a backup during the 2022 season and started at right guard in Southeastern Conference wins over Tennessee and Kentucky.

With McClendon and offensive lineman Warren Erickson both headed for the NFL draft, Wheelock would likely compete for a starting position in 2023 when the Bulldogs make their third straight national title run.

Athletic director Josh Brooks said Wheelock and LeCroy were “two special people” who “meant the world to our football program and athletic department.”

“We will continue to honor their memory in the years to come,” Brooks added.

Police said the 21-year-old passenger suffered minor injuries and the 26-year-old female passenger suffered serious injuries. “We will continue to monitor their condition with medical staff,” the school said.

Georgia also said its mental health and performance staff are “making sure we are providing the best possible support for our staff and student-athletes who are going through this grief.”

Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey, who spoke at the championship celebration, tweeted that Wheelock’s death was “incredibly sad news and we extend our condolences, prayers and support.”

Another Georgia player, linebacker Nolan Smith, said Wheelock’s death “hurt my heart.”

“All I have to say, THE BIG ONES ARE COMING (TOO) FAST,” Smith tweeted. “@DevinWillock I LOVE YOU FOREVER.”

In the hours before his death, Wheelock retweeted a post in which he was seen hanging out with a young Georgia fan at a restaurant, as it were, and even let the guy wear his championship ring.

“Special thanks to @DevinWillock for making time for my grandson when he didn’t have to,” the tweet read. “You went out of your way to make him feel special and you made his day!! Good luck next year! Go ahead, Doug!”

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