Few times in recent memory have we received a bigger reminder of “football is just a game” than with Devon Still and his family. After what seemed like a promising start to his NFL career—a former Big Ten Player of the Year at Penn State, a second-round selection and being part of some playoff squads—Still and his family received news that no parent ever wants to hear.
His precious daughter Leah was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, a type of cancer that often occurs in early development. What ensued was heartbreak, followed by a display of the goodness in humanity, and eventually triumph, as Leah beat the disease.
We were pleased to speak with Devon and Leah recently—especially with the month of September being Childhood Cancer Awareness month. In that spirit, the Still’s have been teaming up with United Therapeutics Oncology and their “Braving NeuroBLASToma” initiative.
In speaking with the Still’s, we recounted how the Bengals came to the aid of Devon in some creative ways in his biggest time of need.
“The Bengals stepped up in two major ways,” Still said to us. “Number one: when I first found out about Leah’s diagnosis and I called Marvin (Lewis) and I talked to the Brown’s (ownership family), they let me know that I could put my focus on Leah and they would take care of football...and they we ended up discussing going down to the practice squad so I could solely focus on Leah and as the journey got a little bit easier for me to handle, they would bring me back up to the 53-man roster.”
Still continued with the jersey endeavor that swept the nation, as news of Leah’s diagnosis reached every corner of the NFL world. “Not just Bengals fans, but fans everywhere bought jerseys and we raised over a million dollars for cancer research, which was huge, and I’m glad the Bengals decided to do that.”
The Bengals organization seems to be an easy target by the national media, in terms of criticism. A lack of championships and an ownership group that traditionally trended towards the introverted side (that has since been changing recently), as opposed to the Al Davis’ and Jerry Jones’ of the world, has teed the club up for punchlines.
Lost in that are stories like these where the Bengals create a great cause and don’t ask for any personal kudos. I suppose it’s just not as fun to laud this ownership group for a huge philanthropic endeavor like this as it is to poke fun at their foibles.
It was a treat to see Leah talk about doing the normal things that all 11-year olds should experience. She says she has her eyes on a potential healthcare career—a doctor, in fact—and, given what she’s achieved already at a young age, this seems like a very attainable goal for her. She also wrote a foreword on books contained in the Braving NeuroBLASToma initiative.
Each year, about 800 children are diagnosed with neuroblastoma, accounting for 7-10% of all childhood cancers in the United States. At time of diagnosis, nearly 70% of children will have advanced or metastatic neuroblastoma, with only half of these patients achieving remission.
Braving NeuroBLASToma features a family-friendly toolkit with a resource-rich website, including a comprehensive library of information and resources such as questions for your doctor, navigating clinical trials, understanding treatment, and caregiver advice.
Check the entire interview out on your favorite audio streamer, or our YouTube channel. Our thanks to the Still family and United Therapeutics Oncology for the opportunity to speak with Devon and Leah.
If you’re unable to join us live here at Cincy Jungle or YouTube for every episode, all of our podcast content is available here on CJ, the Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart Radio and Google Play Music apps, our Orange and Black Insider YouTube channel, as well as through Megaphone and, as always, on iTunes! Thanks for listening and go subscribe to our channels to be notified when we’re going live and when new episodes are available!