Section: Features

Jordan and Chintala reflect on teammate, friend Lucian Li

Jordan and Chintala reflect on teammate, friend Lucian Li

Lucian is still a presence in Chintala and Jordan’s lives. | COURTESY OF DAVID CHINTALA

After being injured in the July 2023 car accident that tragically claimed the life of Lucian Li, Will Jordan ’26 and David Chintala ’26 are back on the lacrosse field. With any season comes challenges, but having lost a teammate and close friend, Jordan and Chintala have grappled with both physical and mental hurdles over the course of the school year. Throughout it all, they have relied on the support of their teammates, coaches and families, and are now setting their sights on winning the NCAC Championship in honor of Lucian. Jordan and Chintala sat down with the Collegian to discuss recovering from their injuries, remembering their friend and striving to live for Lucian in all that they do.

This year, the team has worked to conduct their practices with Lucian, who wore number 25, in mind, ensuring that his memory is at the forefront of all of their endeavors. “Something that we’ve incorporated into our every day to remember Lucian is we do 25 jumping jacks at the end of every warmup,” Jordan said. “It helps to keep us motivated, I think. We really remember why we’re doing this and the community that we have, and the ones that came before us that couldn’t be here.” Chintala added, “We scheduled some more events together in the fall, just to create as tight-knit a community as possible. Especially with the freshmen who came in — they weren’t there last year. Though they knew Lucian, he wasn’t a part of their team, so bringing them in, not letting them feel isolated because they weren’t there, was a big part of our goal.” The team also wears the slogan “Live for Lucian” on their backs and has named a new “Teammate of the Year” award in his honor. Following a recent game against Franklin and Marshall College in Lucian’s hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the team visited his gravesite and volunteered at his middle school. “We got to meet a lot of people you hear about in stories,” Chintala said of the visit. Jordan added, “Seeing his grave was something that was very difficult, but we took our time.”

For Jordan and Chintala, the support of their teammates and coaches made the lengthy process of returning to the field a little easier. “It’s been difficult, but it’s been such an amazing challenge that I’ve embraced, and my teammates have helped me embrace that,” Jordan said. “Having the support from [Assistant Athletic Director and Head Men’s Lacrosse] Coach [Doug] Misarti is unparalleled. He’s always been my biggest advocate. He wants me to do my best and doesn’t see me with any limitations anymore, which is phenomenal.” Chintala highlighted the importance of being able to participate in fall semester practices despite suffering residual injuries from the accident (at the start of the school year, he was not allowed to lift anything over 10 pounds). “The coaches being understanding with me, letting me do little things like stretching with the team or helping warm up the goalies and shoot, they were super understanding and let me do whatever I really could,” he said. 

Even with the abundance of support from the lacrosse community, the two harbored some apprehension about starting to play again. “The first few practices I was back I was extremely rusty,” Chintala said. “I was nervous that I was gonna stay that way throughout the rest of the year.” He added, “I was also worried about taking contact — when you have something, an injury to something like your core that you use so often, it’s really hard to see yourself get back and take a hit. But that goes away after you take the first hit and get used to playing again. After that, it was just the game I grew up playing.” Chintala seems to have recovered in time for the season, having scored a team-leading 42 goals so far. For Jordan, the prospect of feeling Lucian’s absence on the field was daunting: “I was worried about being upset and thinking about Lucian every day when I came down to practice, and how that was gonna affect me. I’m wearing his number this year, 25, so that’s been a huge honor that I definitely take seriously,” he said. “And in a way I do think about him all the time, but it’s motivation now. It’s not so much upsetting as I thought maybe it was gonna be.” 

 Though the group had always been tight-knit, both Jordan and Chintala emphasized how the accident drew the players even closer together. “When I was in the hospital, I had probably 25 percent of the team come visit me from all over,” Chintala said. “We were in the middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania, a little bit outside Philly. And I had people coming from Ohio, from Boston, these six-hour trips just to come see me for an hour. It meant the world to me,” he said. Similarly, Jordan expressed his gratitude for all of his teammates: “It makes you appreciate every moment, no doubt. Every single interaction that you have, every teammate that you have, whether or not they’re your best friend in the world or they’re maybe not as close as your friend — you really value them and get to know them super well,” he said. “It adds a ton of value to your relationships and it really does change your outlook on life.” 

Remembering Lucian has come about in many different ways, both formal and informal. In addition to wearing his jersey number this year, Jordan sports a piece of tape on his helmet with the phrase “Live for Lucian,” in reference to the foundation set up in his name that provides financial support to “individuals who embody the values of Lucian,” according to its website. Regarding the informal, Chintala shared the story of a seemingly innocuous object that now represents Lucian’s spontaneity and joie de vivre: “I got this salt lamp — It’s not the whole salt lamp, it’s not the light. I don’t know where he found it, but on one of the last days of school my first year, he found it and — I don’t even know what he was gonna do with it, I don’t know the whole story with it. But he left it in my car. I had that thing rolling around my car, like, the first week of summer, I was like ‘What is this?,’ and then I remembered. So I keep that around as a little memory of him.” Chintala also noted that he and his suitemates keep several pictures of Lucian in their common space. 

The two repeatedly emphasized Lucian’s open, funny and warm personality, which is sorely missed across the Kenyon community and beyond. “Lucian was the kindest person you ever met,” Jordan said. “He never met a stranger. He could strike up a conversation with anyone. He was the most sociable person, always made everyone feel happy, and I think that was my favorite aspect of Lucian. He always wanted everyone to feel included and to have a good time.” Chintala agreed: “I think he should be remembered by his joy and his smile and the light that he brought to so many people — he knew everyone. It felt like he knew the whole campus, so I feel like that’s really special that a lot of people got to know him. But for those who don’t, even if you would’ve talked to him for a second, it would’ve felt like you knew him for a year.” After a short pause, he added, smiling: “That’s why I was so lucky to know him for a year, because it felt like I knew him for 10.” 

4 Comments

Comments for this article have closed. If you'd like to send a letter to the editor for publication, please email us at collegian@kenyon.edu.