By Joseph Yamulla, Layout Assistant ||
The main objective in any sport is clear, compete to win. However, sometimes sports leave us with something greater than a win or loss. Such is the case with the powerful and inspirational story of Devon Still and his daughter, Leah.
Football fans were introduced to Devon Still during his time at Penn State, playing under the late Joe Paterno. Still was known for his heart and determination on the field. However, he is now known for his determination and fight for his daughter who is suffering from Stage Four neuroblastoma. Leah is only four years old. Still was preparing to take her to a dance recital this summer when she was suffering from a fever. The doctor came out to tell Devon the news that no parent wants to hear, that his child has an incredibly dangerous form of pediatric cancer. Neuroblastoma is a cancer that develops in the nerve tissue. It is usually only seen in infants and young children. To make matters worse, Still was recently cut from the Cincinnati Bengals’ roster during that time. However, in order to help Devon pay for his daughter’s treatment, the Bengals resigned him to their practice squad. If he wanted to make the active roster, he had to fight for the spot, just like Leah is fighting for her life.
Devon Still fought his way to the active roster. The Cincinnati Bengals understood that sports and winning are important, but Leah’s fight is much bigger than the game of football. The Bengals allowed the money from each Devon Still jersey sold to benefit pediatric cancer research and awareness. Head coach of the New Orleans Saints, Sean Payton, bought 100 jerseys in order to give them out to children at the Boys and Girls Club and the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Leah was given only a 50 percent chance of survival, but that isn’t stopping her father, the Cincinnati Bengals, the entire NFL, football fans, and people everywhere from doing everything they can to support her in the fight for her life.
Thursday, November 6th, was an emotional night in Cincinnati. The Bengals took on the Browns and Leah came to her dad’s first NFL game. The fan support was incredible. For just a moment, winning and losing didn’t matter. The stadium was filled with Bengals and Browns fans. Yet, when Leah was honored on the big screen, everyone inside Paul Brown Stadium roared for one person, and that was her. In that moment, the teams and the fans were united.
During this time, the Bengals also announced that they were donating 1.3 million dollars in her name to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for pediatric cancer research. They also played an inspiration video of Leah and her father that touched the hearts of many across the nation.
Devon Still’s jersey is currently the 11th most popular jersey in the NFL. Sports fans of every game and team have been showing up in cities across America wearing the Still jersey to show their support. Wearing Cincinnati #75 is a statement of compassion and unity in the sports world. It is stronger than team unity.
The support that Devon and Leah have gotten shows the incredible healing power in sports. Sports are an important part of American culture and society. Once people come together in support of a cause like Leah’s, it is evident how influential and powerful professional sports can be. Thursday may have been the first time Leah got to see her dad play in the NFL, but hopefully, with the growing support of many and with her fighting spirit, she will see him strap on his shoulder pads for many years to come.
First-Year Joseph Yamulla is a Staff Writer. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.