When Bengals defensive tackle Devon Still found out that his 4-year-old daughter Leah was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, he had to leave the team to be by her. The team was forced to open up his position to another player come final team cuts in September.
The Bengals could have left it at that. But, the Bengals did the right thing. They resigned Devon Still to the Bengals practice squad. This enabled Devon to receive a paycheck, have Leah covered on health insurance and gave him the opportunity to be close to Leah as she battled the disease.
The team went further. In early September, the Bengals announced that they’d be donating all proceeds from the sales of Devon Still’s jersey to pediatric research. In a day’s time, more of Still’s jerseys were sold than any other Bengals’ player jersey ever! In a classy move, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton purchased 100 Still jerseys. In less than a week, Still and the Bengals raised some $400,000.
On September 11, the Bengals moved Still from the practice squad to the 53 man roster when a spot opened up.
“I rolled right out of bed,” Still said, “I made it here about five minutes later before they could change their mind.”
Leah has surgery scheduled for September 25 to remove what was once a softball sized tumor. Leah has had about 14 weeks of chemotherapy to find her pediatric cancer – neuroblastoma. Still has told reporters that the doctors give Leah a 50% chance of surviving the disease. Understandably, Still wants to spend as much time with Leah as he can. Thankfully, his team, fans and even an opposing team’s coach have rallied around him, Leah and his family. As Still told Peter King,
“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.”
Would you like to support Devon and Leah? Purchase a Still Strong t-shirt benefitting the hospitals where Leah is being cared for.
Video: Bengals’ Devon Still and his daughter