Why Devon Still is the Greatest Story in the NFL This Season
It's easy to lose sight of the fact that there are real people with real lives that contribute to this game we love. Between just getting caught up in the action on the field itself to all the off the field issues which are prevalent, we tend to forget that the men on the field are not robots, they are human beings with families, just like the rest of us.
Devon Still was selected in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. He played for 4 years at Penn State, earning the 2011 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award amongst many other accolades. Still played both the 2012 and 2013 seasons for the Bengals.
Earlier in 2014, Still's daughter, Leah Sari, was diagnosed with cancer. Understandably, Devon's focus completely shifted to caring for his child, saying "Sports is not more important than me being there while my daughter is fighting for her life." In addition to focusing on his daughter, Still was battling his own injuries through training camp and did not make the Bengals roster for 2014. Devon understood the decision, saying "I can't give Football 100% right now."
Certainly a tough decision, the Bengals have done everything they can to support Still and his family during this trying time. In fact, the outpouring of support from around the league and its fans has been overwhelming. While a lot of negativity has swirled around the league all year, this has truly been a moment where many have reminded us of some positive things. A few examples:
- The Bengals immediately offered him a spot on the practice squad so he could continue paying for his Daughter's treatment
- Cincinnati continued selling Still's jersey to raise awareness for pediatric cancer research, donating profits to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.
- New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton personally purchased and donated 100 jerseys.
- During a SNF game at New England, the Patriots organized several tributes, including a video tribute for Leah and the Pats cheerleaders wearing Still's Bengals jersey. Patriots owner Robert Kraft also donated to the Hospital in Leah's name.
- A video Devon posted on Instagram of him speaking to his daughter pre-surgery went viral.
- Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach Chip Kelly sent flowers and gifts to Leah.
- An outpouring of support from fans on Twitter - #StillStrong.
- Still shaved his head and will only grow his hair back when Leah's does.
In addition to the above, the story has received enormous media attention. Still has shown incredible courage and heart, and provides a tremendous role model for parents, other players, and generally all of us. Still returned to the active roster for a game against the Atlanta Falcons, and has since recorded seven tackles. Leah underwent surgery to remove her tumor and continues to recover.