Meet Devon Still and his daughter Leah Sari Still.
In Case You Missed It: The Devon Still story
Bengals defensive tackle Devon Still, who will appear on NFL Nation TV today at 1 p.m. ET, learned on June 2 that his 4-year-old daughter, Leah, was diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma, a rare pediatric cancer. When he learned of the diagnosis, Still was granted permission by the Bengals to leave organized team activities and minicamp in June to attend to his daughter.
The Bengals had no choice but to cut him in September. However, the team re-signed him to the practice squad so Still would continue to get a paycheck and health insurance.
In an effort to help raise money and awareness about pediatric cancer, Still coordinated a fundraising drive in which donations will be made based on the number of sacks the Bengals record this season.
The team announced Sept. 8 that it was donating all proceeds from sales of Still’s jersey to pediatric cancer research. Less than 24 hours later, more of the defensive tackle’s black No. 75 jerseys had been sold in that time span than any jersey featuring any other Bengals player — ever.
After just four days of sales, he and the Bengals have raised about $400,000. Still said more than 5,000 of his jerseys have been purchased in the week since the team launched the jersey-sale campaign.
The Bengals on Sept. 11 signed Still off the practice squad and added him to the 53-man roster, where they had a spot available. “I rolled right out of bed,” Still told reporters. “I made it here about five minutes later before they could change their mind.”
Big thanks for to the saints for ordering jerseys to help support pediatric cancer..only one word to describe everything, AMAZING!!
Devon J. Still (born July 11, 1989) is an American football defensive tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals. He played college football for Pennsylvania State University, earning consensus All-American honors. He was considered one of the best defensive tackle prospects, and was selected by the Bengals in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Still was born in Camden, New Jersey. He attended Howard High School of Technology in Wilmington, Delaware, where he was a standout lineman for the Howard Wildcats high school football team. Still was a team captain during his senior season, recorded 59 tackles, 18 of them for a loss, and was recognized as the Lineman of the Year by the Delaware Interscholastic Coaches Association. He also was a member of the Howard Wildcats basketball and track and field teams.
Still attended Penn State, where he played for coach Joe Paterno‘s Penn State Nittany Lions football team from 2008 to 2011. He was named the 2011 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, becoming only the second defensive tackle to win the award (along with former teammate Jared Odrick). He was also named Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year, consensus All-Big Ten, and to 10 first-team All-American teams. He was a finalist for both the Outland and Bednarik awards. Still was elected a team captain for the Nittany Lions as a senior in 2011. He is a charter member of the Eta Alpha chapter of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc. He graduated with a degree in crime, law, and justice.
At the 2012 NFL Draft, Still was selected in the second round by the Cincinnati Bengals, with the 53rd overall selection. He played two seasons with the team before being cut in late August 2014, prior to the start of the season. The following day, the Bengals re-signed Still to the practice squad to help him pay for his daughter’s cancer treatment. On September 10, 2014 it was announced that Still was being moved to active status. In the game that followed, the Bengals’ second of the season, he recorded three tackles against the Atlanta Falcons.
Cincy Shirts release Devon Still shirts to help cause
The jersey sales hit 4,000 in one week, which is a record by a wide margin.
The shirts made by Cincy Shirts can be found and purchased here.
Devon Still: The Feel-Good NFL Story You Probably Missed This Week
So there’s Still, in late August, left unemployed by the only NFL team he’s ever played for and with a daughter at home who’s as likely to die as she is to live. But the Bengals did Still a solid even while cutting him loose; coach Marvin Lewis gave him a spot on the practice squad so he could continue drawing a paycheck to pay for Leah’s cancer treatments.
NFL practice squad players are paid a minimum of $6,300 per week that they stay among the group of 10 players that practices with a team but does not suit up for games. Stay on for a full 17 weeks and you make about $107,000. That’s not bad money — but it’s nothing compared to the $570,000 minimum salary for NFL players, such as Still, with two years of playing experience, according the site Spotrac, which analyzes sports salaries.
Still said at the time that he was grateful for the opportunity, given the more pressing concerns in his life.
“I completely understand where they were coming from,” he said last week. “I can’t give football 100% right now. In the business aspect they want guys to solely focus on football, which is understandable. We are here to win this city a Super Bowl and right now I am not in a position where I can give football 100% of everything I have.”
But then the Bengals did something even more awesome: They moved Still up to the 53-man active roster this week.
And the story gets even better — much better. The Bengals announced late Monday night they will donate all proceeds from sales of Devon Still jerseys to pediatric cancer treatment and research facilities at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Within 24 hours, the sales of Still jerseys had outpaced those of any other player in Bengals history over a one-day span.
In two days, the Bengals sold more than 1,000 jerseys, according to Cincinnati’s local Fox affiliate. The sales keep ringing up, and New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton bought 100 jerseys on his own.
With the jerseys going for $100 a pop, each purchase is much more than a symbolic show of support for pediatric cancer patients and their families. Payton’s 100-jersey order alone translates to $10,000.
The show of support from the Bengals, NFL community and random fans and supporters around the country has clearly touched Still. His Twitter feed is a steady procession of posts expressing gratitudes and retweets of well-wishers.
Meanwhile, Leah continues to fight — but there are a lot more people keeping her in their thoughts now.
You can buy your own Devon Still jersey here.
Devon Still’s Second Chance (Full Feature HD)
Published on Sep 14, 2014
Bengals DT Devon Still explains how he has been able to cope with his four-year old daughter Leah’s stage 4 cancer diagnosis with the help of the Bengals organization and support from fans and even Saints coach Sean Payton.
‘Football is Full of Heart’
One minute, Devon Still was preparing for his 4-year-old daughter’s dance recital. The next, the Bengals defensive tackle was at a hospital, learning that she had cancer. Here is their heart-wrenching story and how others are rallying to help.
The Leah Still story has come close to capturing the nation. At least the sporting nation, at a time when football desperately needs some small bit of good news. Leah, 4, is three-and-a-half months into her fight with pediatric cancer—neuroblastoma, to be specific. She has a Sept. 25 surgery scheduled to remove a tumor that has been shrunk from softball-size in June to something smaller through four rounds of chemotherapy. Doctors have told her father, Cincinnati defensive tackle Devon Still, that Leah has about a 50 percent chance of survival.
“I’ll remember that day, June second, the day she was diagnosed,” Still recalled the other day. “I was in Delaware for a dance recital that she was having that day.” They never made it to the recital. “She had a fever, and so we took her to the emergency room. They thought it was some kind of infection, and they did some tests. They would touch her hip, and she would jump—there was a lot of pain there. So they did an ultrasound test and saw a mass. One of the doctors said there was about 10 things it could be, and they went over the list of things and the last thing was ‘cancer.’ I never took it very seriously, because it was the last thing they said.
“That night they did an MRI and a CAT scan on her. They told me to wait, and they would come out and talk to me. I’ve had those scans before, and I know how long they take, maybe 45 minutes. So they were in there about two hours, and I figured, ‘This isn’t good.’ I kind of got ready for some news.
“The doctor came out. And her lips started quivering. All I heard was they found a tumor.
“I felt empty. I felt sick. Shocked. I had to go out and tell my father and grandmother, and they were out there waiting for me, and when I went there, they were laughing, and I thought, ‘I am going to knock the smiles right off their faces.’
“And I started to tell them, and I just broke down crying.”
A few days after the Stage Four neuroblastoma diagnosis that changed his family’s life forever, Still lay next to Leah in a bed in the Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children in Delaware. A nurse was sticking the 4-year-old—who hates needles—for some more tests, and she was crying, and the big football player was trying to comfort her. “Dad!” she yelled through her tears. “This is all your fault! You never brought me to the hospital in time!”
“I broke down then,” Still said the other day, sounding emotional about it again. “That is a tough thing to hear from your daughter.”
So now he waits. And he takes strength from a whole lot of people he has never met.
* * *
What does a man with a dream of being a great football player think when one moment he’s getting ready to attend a dance recital and the next he’s told his daughter has a 50-50 chance of living?
He thinks he can defer football for a while, and maybe forever. That’s what Devon Still wanted to do. Leah’s mother, Channing Smythe, lives with her in Delaware, and Still is there often, in between playing and training for the Bengals. But when she was diagnosed, “Football stopped crossing my mind. When I heard she had a 50 percent chance of survival, and then I heard the cancer went into her bones, I just wanted to spend all my time with her—in case her time ran out. You know, that is not time you could ever get back.”
He called the Bengals and explained he’d have to take some time off to be with his daughter, and 10 minutes later coach Marvin Lewis was on the phone with him, telling him not to worry about rushing back. He should take all the time he needed.
Still thought he wouldn’t play football—he’d just walk away, and spend as long as he had to with Leah while she fought the cancer. But then some cold reality hit: He was told her treatment, depending on the extent of the cancer, would cost at least $1 million. So he came back to camp, and Lewis told him he could go home whenever he needed. At the end of training camp the Bengals waived Still—they knew he couldn’t devote the time necessary to be a full-time contributor—but offered him a spot on the practice squad. This way he could keep his insurance and pay for Leah’s treatment. Still was grateful … grateful for the insurance, grateful that the Bengals wanted to stick with him, and grateful that they would allow him to commute back and forth to support his daughter.
While that was happening, two sources of goodness sprang up. The Bengals announced that proceeds from sales of Still’s number 75 jersey, available on the team’s website for $100 apiece, would be given to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to support pediatric cancer research. Sean Payton bought 100 of them—$10,000 to fight cancer. “If I saw him,” said Still, “I’d give him a hug.” As of the weekend, about 5,000 jerseys had been sold. Another site, PLDGIT, began to accept donations or pledges per Bengals sack this year, with the money going to fight cancer and to provide financial assistance to families who have to drop everything when their children are diagnosed. As of Monday night, people had pledged $408.38 per team sack.
With Still healthy and the Bengals in need of a rotational tackle after Week 1, Lewis told him he wanted to activate him for the Week 2 game against Atlanta. Still felt he was ready. Lewis told him that regardless of his active status he could go home to Delaware when he wanted to be with Leah.
Still, who had two solo tackles and one assist in 16 snaps against the Falcons on Sunday, continues to come to terms with news that still makes him shudder.
“At times,” he said, “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. 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.
“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.”
Bengals keep Still to help with daughter’s cancer
Devon Still didn’t like the phone call he received Saturday from coach Marvin Lewis saying he didn’t make the team’s 53-man roster. But he understood, and was grateful for being offered a position on the practice squad in order to help pay for his 4-year-old daughter’s cancer treatments.
There haven’t been many positives for Still since news broke June 2 that his daughter, Leah, has stage 4 cancer, but he’ll accept any bit of silver lining available. The Bengals’ loyalty in sticking with him on the practice squad when he admittedly can’t offer them his best effort meant a great deal to the former Penn State captain.
“They could have just washed their hands completely of it,” Still said. “Say we don’t care what’s going on in his personal life, we just want people who can care 100 percent on football, that’s what they pay us to do. But they thought about my personal issues and allowed me to come back on the practice squad so I still have insurance. They said if I keep working on my physical with my injury and mentally prepared myself to focus on football, then they can move me back up to the roster, so I am not all the way out of the loop.”
The 2012 second-round pick can openly admit he’s been in no position to impact the team to his full ability.
“I completely understand where they were coming from,” Still said. “I can’t give football 100 percent right now. In the business aspect they want guys to solely focus on football, which is understandable. We are here to win this city a Super Bowl and right now I am not in a position where I can give football 100 percent of everything I have.”
Instead, 24-year-old defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi took the final spot in the defensive line rotation.
As a member of the practice squad Still won’t travel on road trips. This instead affords him an opportunity to travel back to Philadelphia to see his daughter, who recently began her fourth round of chemotherapy.
Leah continues to handle the treatments and is doing well, according to Still, but the anxiety level hasn’t decreased.
Still injured his hamstring early in the third preseason game against Arizona and been sidelined ever since. This adds onto a career marred by ailments to this point. He injured his elbow and suffered a herniated disc in his back last season.
In two full seasons with the Bengals, Still has played in 18 games without a start, notching 28 tackles and half a sack.
Lewis suggested Monday the decisions to place both Still and center Trevor Robinson into the two spots now reserved for players with more than a year experience on the practice squad were being debated until the final days.
Expectations are both will play a role with the 2014 Bengals.
“We have two good quality guys who at some point will be on the 53-man roster, almost undoubtedly,” Lewis said. “We’re fortunate enough to have them here right now as reserves for us.”
Still will focus on healing his hamstring and allowing his personal life to sort itself out in the meantime so eventually he can repay the Bengals for keeping him around.
“The Bengals were loyal to me,” he said. “I’m not about to up and leave them. Loyalty is something I really need right now because I never know what direction this is going to go with my daughter.”
Devon Still on Leah
Published on Sep 15, 2014
Devon Still was active for today’s game, and had some good news about his daughter Leah, too.
It’s a sad sad commentary when our society can focus on the abuse stories coming out of the NFL the past two weeks, but hardly a mention of this story of compassion, heart, kindness and love……coming straight from the hated National Football league.
Filed under: Politics | Tagged: American Association for Cancer Research, American Cancer Society, Bengals, Cancer, Cincinnati Bengals, Devon Still, Leah, Leah Sari Still, National Football League, New Orleans Saints, NFL, Sean Payton | 27 Comments »