Darrius Bratton. Courtesy of the University of Virginia.

One of the memories of Bronco Mendenhall’s tenure as Virginia football coach was his tradition of breaking a rock in celebration after a victory.

Nobody knows that better than UVa defensive back Darrius Bratton, who chased down a Louisville receiver for a game-saving tackle that preserved a 34-33 Cavaliers’ victory, the last road victory of the Mendenhall era.

Bratton was chosen to break the rock before the team boarded a plane for a return to Charlottesville.

“It was a great tradition,” Bratton confirmed after an early preseason practice. “That was a great moment. I still have the rocks that I broke. You put the date on them. You have them as souvenirs.”

They have a place in his family’s living room in Roanoke.

Or so he thought. His mom, Rhonda, hasn’t been able to locate them.

For Bratton, a graduate of William Fleming High School in Roanoke, it was a crowning moment.

Sports information director Jim Daves said his understanding is that the tradition will not be renewed under new head coach Tony Elliot.

Bratton has other distinctions, including a listing on the Cavaliers’ roster that shows him as a four-year letterman. He goes into the season as the only player with that distinction and could end up as a five-year letterman, having received an extra year as the result of COVID.

This will be his sixth season, counting a postgraduate year at Fork Union Military Academy following his graduation from Fleming.

“It’s just perseverance, just battling through anything that comes my way and just having my teammates supporting me and the coaching staff supporting me as well,” he said.

Curome Cox, most recently an assistant coach at Air Force, is the Cavaliers’ defensive passing game coordinator.

“The transition was hard,” Bratton said of the coaching change, “but as a group and a collective, we have embraced the transition. I want to focus on the team aspect right now but I do have high standards for myself.”

Roanoke-area names on the roster

Other Roanoke Valley products on the UVa roster are wide receiver Josh Clifford from Glenvar High School, linebacker James Jackson from North Cross School and former Lord Botetourt High School teammates Jake Dewease and K.J. Bratton, who is Darrius Bratton’s cousin.

Clifford, a walk-on who is the son of Glenvar coach Kevin Clifford, recently was placed on scholarship by Elliott. As of the start of preseason drills, UVa was listing 123 players on its roster.

Doug Doughty

Doug Doughty has been writing for more than 50 years starting as a high school student in Washington, D.C., through his undergraduate years at the University of Virginia, and 47 years at the Roanoke Times...