Bronco, UVA players react to losing Snowden

By Jerry Ratcliffe

charles snowden

Charles Snowden leaves the field on crutches. Photo courtesy Atlantic Coast Conference (Erin Edgerton/Daily Progress).

Charles Snowden has already undergone surgery for his broken ankle suffered early in Saturday night’s win over Abilene Christian, and his mother is in town to help take care of him, according to UVA coach Bronco Mendenhall.

The immediate estimate of time required for a full recovery is six months according to Mendenhall, who has seen this happen several times over the length of his coaching career, most recently to starting cornerback Bryce Hall last season at Miami.

Mendenhall had become close to Snowden, who wasn’t a highly recruited football player out of high school (he actually had basketball scholarship offers), and became one of the strongest leaders on and off the field for Virginia football.

“I don’t know if I can articulate it,” Mendenhall said when asked what Snowden has meant to UVA’s defensive resurgence over the past month. “Charles’ influence on our program has been breathtaking in terms of maturity and growth. In a lot of ways, his own maturity and growth is matched out of the program.”

The coach couldn’t help but recall Snowden’s journey into becoming a beast of a pass rusher and all-around defender in leading the Cavaliers’ aggressive defense, nicknamed “havoc” for the pressure it puts on opposing quarterbacks.

“He came in as tall and thin and a basketball player and he’s blossomed into a future NFL play with amazing leadership skills, and a captain of our team in a four year period,” Mendenhall said. “That trajectory has almost been straight up and I think it is almost a mirror image of the program’s culture and direction. So it’s hard to separate Charles Snowden and UVA football. They seem to be one in the same and I’m not sure if there could be a better exemplar than him, of what I would like our program to be.”

Snowden was enjoying an outstanding season prior to his misfortune against Abilene.

In eight games, he had 44 tackles (72 total in 2019), 6  sacks (5 in ‘19), 10 tackles for loss (11 last season), 3 passes broken up (4 last year), 4 quarterback hurries (11 in ‘19) and a forced fumble (he had one fumble recovery a year ago).

A team captain, he was a force on and off the field, offering his leadership on social issues and being a friend to everyone on the team.

“Charles is our leader,” said senior cornerback Nick Grant. “He’s connected with everybody on the team. I would say that anybody on our team believes Charles is their best friend or one of their best friends.”

Snowden must have immediately known that his injury was serious, the way he hit the turf and slammed his helmet to the ground in frustration. Still, the senior handled it as best he could under the circumstances.

“I think saddened and disappointed,” Mendenhall said of Snowden realizing his season was over. “There’s the initial reaction and then there’s the onset of what it really means in terms of recovery, in terms of future, in terms of other decisions that will have to be made, so he’s kind of in that process right now.

“I think part sad, part grief, part remorseful, part frustrated. I don’t know you could probably substituteabout every adjective that you could imagine in there. I would just say I’m thankful just for all that he’s contributed to this point. I don’t think you can give more.”

The idea was raised that because there is a free year of eligibility due to the pandemic, Snowden could come back for another season. Mendenhall said he’s chosen not to address the eligibility of any of his players until after the season is over and has left that up to position coaches at this point.

“I like the focus being on here and now, knowing that any distraction usually impedes performance,” Mendenhall said. “We’ll approach that after our last game with eah and all of the players that have exhausted their eligibility.”

Grant and teammates feel badly for Snowden. It has been a tough season on that side of the ball with Richard Burney having ended his season a few weeks ago due to undisclosed medical issues, then having senior defensive backs Joey Blount and Brenton Nelson out since the Wake Forest game.

“Charles has such a bright future, just invited to the Senior Bowl,” Grant said. “It was heartbreaking. We’ve had two consecutive injuries to our captains (Burney this year and Hall last year). It’s the next man up, and Elliott Brown, who is close to Charles, having a great game last Saturday night after Charles was injured.”

Matt Gahm, a senior linebacker who has worked closely with Snowden, also felt the devastation of seeing a teammate suffer a season-ending injury.

“It was hard to see a teammate, especially a good friend of mine go down,” Gahm said. “We were all sad to see that. We were all praying for him in the locker room after the game. “Obviously it was hard seeing that, going to work with him every day. I know Charles and know he’s always faced adversity well. I have every confidence he will bounce back.”

Gahm had communicated with Snowden and reported his teammate “had great spirits about it, and was as good as he can be considering the circumstance.

“He knows we all have his back,” Gahm said.


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