Devon Still is a defensive tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals. Before going pro, Still played under Head Coach Joe Paterno at Penn State University from 2008-2011. With the Nittany Lions, he became the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year during his senior year. Following college, the Bengals selected Still as the 53overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Suddenly, his plans of becoming an NFL star ran into a detour. This past June, he and his four-year-old daughter, Leah, were on their way to her ballet recital, when Leah had a fever and had to go to the emergency room. There, the doctors ran a series of tests and ran down a list of possible illnesses that she might be suffering from, with the last one being cancer.
The final verdict was determined that same night, after the doctors ran an MRI and CAT scan. Stage Four neuroblastoma diagnosis was the sickness that Leah had been plagued with. During training camp, Still did not make the roster, citing the move as the right thing for the Bengals to do because he could not focus 100 percent on football.
The coaching staff decided to sign Still to the practice squad, so that he could continue spending time with Leah and make payments for her cancer treatments. He was grateful for these opportunities because his daughter was his most important priority.
Devon Still’s Bengals jersey number, 75, became an available item on the teams’ website. Each jersey cost $100 apiece and the proceeds go to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in an effort to support cancer research. New Orleans Saints Head Coach, Sean Payton, bought 100 jerseys. “If I saw him (Payton), I’d give him a hug,” said Still.
Prior to the Bengals week two game against the Atlanta Falcons, Devon Still was added to the active roster. Against the Falcons, he played sixteen snaps recording three tackles. Maybe he was playing for Leah, for himself, or both. Regardless of who Devon Still was playing for, he was thankful to be back on the field despite everything that went on over the summer.
“At times, I’ve felt like I couldn’t go on. This has hit me harder than any obstacle I’ve faced in my life. It makes no sense to me,” he said. “I never heard of neuroblastoma before, and now I am an expert on it. But the Bengals have been so good to me. People I don’t know have been so good to me. Fans have been so good.” (www.wordpress.com)
“The whole experience … I have been just stunned. It has helped so much. I can’t believe that in this sport that has no so-called heart, it’s really so full of heart. That’s the truth: Football is full of heart.”
Without a doubt, heartbreaking situations are difficult to deal with. However, Devon Still believes that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. He and Leah are receiving a tremendous amount of support through friends, family members, teammates, and coaches. Also, Leah’s drive and determination will continue to aid her each and every day.