Defensive tackle Devon Still was one of the better defensive linemen to set foot on the Beaver Stadium field in Blue and White. The 2011 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year played four seasons for the Nittany Lions under Joe Paterno before being drafted 53rd overall by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2012. For the last two years, Still’s focus has been proving he was worth the high draft pick that the Bengals spent on him and translating his college success to the professional level.
But as of June 2, football has taken a back seat in Still’s life. On that fateful day just three months ago, his daughter Leah was diagnosed with stage-4 neuroblastoma, a rare and serious pediatric cancer.
Heading into his third NFL season, Still had to take a large part of the summer off from team activities through July, spending time at home in Delaware while traveling to Philadelphia for his daughter’s treatment. It came as little surprise when Still failed to make the cut for the Bengals’ 53-man roster last week. That’s when head coach Marvin Lewis called Still with some good news.
On Saturday, Lewis reached out to Still to offer him a spot on the team’s practice squad, according to ESPN’s Coley Harvey. The coach offered Still a few selling points: that he’d get to stay with the team that brought him into the league, that he wouldn’t have to move elsewhere while he takes time off, and that he would continue getting paid and being covered by team health insurance.
“I wanted to make the roster but I have a lot of stuff going on right now that I can’t give football 100 percent,” Still said Monday, according to ESPN. “They could have just washed their hands completely of it. [They could have] said, ‘We don’t care what’s going on in his personal life, we just want people who can care 100 percent [about]football.’ That’s, after all, what they pay us to do.”
While that’s exactly what they could have done, Cincinnati instead extended a helping hand in a time of need to the Penn State alumnus. The team also announced an initiative in the summer to help raise funds for the fight against pediatric cancer.
“I’m dealing with a lot more issues with my daughter than just her having cancer,” he said. “With [the Bengals]sticking by me through this whole time and understanding exactly what I’m going through, it’s a blessing that I was around this organization.”
Still rejoined the team in July for training camp, but Leah stayed at home and hasn’t yet moved to Cincinnati with him due to unspecified issues. Our thoughts are with Still, Leah, and his family in this difficult time.