In all of the negative hubbub that has been surrounding the club over the past few weeks, it's easy for fans to forget that NFL Football is just a sport and that there are so many more important things going on in everyone's lives. The Bengals have one of those transcendent stories within their club, with defensive tackle Devon Still and his daughter Leah at the forefront.
Little Leah has been battling cancer throughout the season, while her dad is by her side and has been with her through all of the recent treatments she has been undergoing. The Bengals and the NFL instituted an initiative where all proceeds from Still's jersey sales would go to pediatric cancer research. The idea has been a resounding success, as evidenced by the $1.3 million check that the team presented during the Thursday Night Football game against the Browns.
One of the biggest and most prominent supporters of the Still Jersey initiative was Saints coach, Sean Payton. In an unexpected and extremely generous gesture, Payton bought 100 of Still's jerseys, obviously donating a lot of money to the cause. The move was particularly unexpected because the Saints and Bengals rarely play against each other and Still and Payton have never met.
That changes this Sunday when the Bengals travel to the Superdome to face the Saints.
And, even though Still called Payton up to thank him for his generosity, he is looking forward to seeing and thanking the New Orleans coach in person this Sunday. For Still, it's been a long time coming.
"You really can't thank somebody the way you want to or are supposed to over the phone," said Still. "It's something you have to do face to face, so I'm definitely looking forward to meeting him. He's basically what got the ball rolling with everything. A lot of the credit goes to him for what he did. Everyone started following suit after what he did."
The purchase of 100 jerseys by Payton was both a cost and donation of $10,000 on his part alone. The Saints head coach heard about the idea and was drawn to the cause, as well as it being a player on a team coached by his friend, Marvin Lewis.
"Just something that listening to the radio was something I heard," said Payton, who used to coach at Miami (Ohio) and is friendly with Lewis to the point where the Bengals and Saints held some joint practices in 2007. "When I got into work the next day I talked to my assistant, we looked into it and decided that would be a good deal to do. You get to know a group a little closer than other teams and just hearing how they handled it was pretty inspirational. It was really spontaneous and something I thought would be a good gesture."
Leah has been undergoing various treatments for her condition, including a surgery to remove a tumor, chemotherapy and a recent radiation treatment. Still sounds as if he's getting cautiously optimistic news about his daughter, but won't fully know about her possible overcoming of the illness until a little ways down the road and these treatments have had their chance to fully take effect.