His boyhood dream had come true. Countless hours of preparation and sacrifice had made him one of the best of the very best as a member of the NFL.
But when Devon Still got the news that his daughter Leah had an aggressive form of cancer, all that faded into the background. He didn’t have to think twice about putting his career on hold for a time to be with Leah every step of the way.
“I’m amazed sometimes when I go out, and a lot of people will say to me, ‘It must’ve been hard to sacrifice your football career for your daughter.’ I’m like, ‘No! It was the easiest thing I ever did in my life.'”
“The sole purpose of me making it to the N.F.L. was to make sure I was able to provide my daughter with the best lifestyle possible. So if my daughter’s life was at risk, what would it mean for me to still have all that if I didn’t have her to share it with?”
Devon explains that understanding who he was as he made his way to this point left him ready to respond to a crisis he never could have seen coming.
“I made it a point to find out who I truly was before I got drafted. What my values were – my faith and my family. And if I ever had to cross those boundaries in order to make it to my goal of being an N.F.L. player, I wasn’t willing to do that. So when my daughter got diagnosed it was a no-brainer that she came before football.”
His Bengals team and the city of Cincinnati came alongside Leah in some pretty unforgettable ways – including donating sales of Devon’s jersey for cancer research. But that was really just the tip of the iceberg.
“Yeah I think that’s what really made the story take off. Initially, when I decided to go public with the story I did it because I wanted to give my daughter’s battle with cancer a purpose. Because I needed that for myself. I needed to be able to conceptualize why my daughter had to go through something this horrible, and I realized when you put a purpose behind your goal that’s bigger than yourself it’s harder to give up. I knew a lot of families were counting on us to really spread awareness. A lot of families battling cancer were really looking up to us for hope, for strength, and for inspiration during those times.”
Devon Still was a defensive force in the National Football League. Now he’s sharing incredible hope in his new book Still in the Game: Finding the Faith to Tackle Life’s Biggest Challenges.On the Road with Devon Still