If there’s one football player who had the world cheering for his family from the sidelines this year, it’s Devon Still. The former Cincinnati Bengals player let the world know that his daughter, Leah, has no evidence of cancer.
CINCINNATI — The star of the Browns–Bengals game Thursday night was Leah Still, the courageous 4-year-old daughter of Cincinnati defensive tackle Devon Still. Fans at Paul Brown Stadium roared between the first and second quarters as the Bengals honored Leah, who’s battling Stage 4 pediatric cancer.
The Bengals announced a $1.3 million donation to Cincinnati’s Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Leah’s name, and the giant video screen played a montage of Leah and Devon set to the song “Brave” by Sara Bareilles.
The Browns won the game 24-3, and Devon had three total tackles.
“I would describe it as an emotional roller coaster,” he said afterward. “Seeing my daughter in the pregame with all the excitement and then seeing her on the field receiving the check and just seeing the joy in her face, I was just so proud of the perseverance she showed to raise that money.”
Leah’s story has touched millions through social media. She wore a bedazzled Still jersey and a pink-flowered headband while flanked by family members in a suite pregame.
On a night filled with touching moments, Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer made a point to embrace Devon Still during the ceremony.
“Being a parent myself, I couldn’t imagine what he’s going through, especially how demanding this job is,” Hoyer told NFL Network after the game when asked what he told Still. “That gives you goose bumps. I just went over and told him I respect him and I pray for his daughter and him and hope everything gets better.”
After the ceremony, Leah’s grandmother carried her off the field and through the tunnel, where she was emotional. “Because everybody loves you,” the grandmother was overheard saying to Leah, minutes after chants of “Leah, Leah” trumpeted through parts of the stadium.
“Seeing her picture on the scoreboard made me emotional, but somehow I was able to play the game,” Devon Still said. “The most emotional I got was when I looked up and saw her and Lauren Hill and saw they got a chance to meet.”
A member of the family said of Leah as the group was walking toward the elevators and back to the suite: “She’s taking it all in. She’s been really into it.”
Fans, TV producers and even local police donned a No. 75 patch or jersey in honor of Still. Devon Still wrote “Leah Strong” on his eye black strips. She watched her father play live for the first time since he debuted in the NFL in 2012 as a second-round pick of the Bengals.
Leah is battling neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer that typically has a 50-50 chance for survival. Surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from her abdomen was considered successful, but rounds of radiation, chemotherapy and stem-cell treatments await her before doctors can determine whether she’s cancer-free.
article by Jeremy Fowler via espn.go.com (ESPN.com Browns reporter Coley Harvey and The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
Devon Still has been making headlines over the past few months after the Cincinnati Bengals added the tackle to their practice squad, enabling Still to get health insurance to take care of his four year-old daughter Leah’s cancer treatment.
Bengals and NFL fans have been incredibly supportive of Still’s daughter’s struggle, and last week the New England Patriots’ cheerleading squad showed their support by donning jerseys of the Bengals’ player during Sunday’s game.
Still was incredibly appreciative of the gesture, as the image above captured by a Twitter user showed the player with gracious tear streaming down his cheek.
Devon Still’s daughter is still in the hospital, and yesterday the New Jersey Jets showed their support and camaraderie by sending Leah a gift package. Gestures like this from the NFL community have to lift everyone’s spirit after another long Sunday.