Father-Daughter Take a Walk Day Inspirational Story: Devon Still and Leah Still

Devon Still, NFL defensive tackle, and daughter Leah Still

July 7 was National Father-Daughter Take a Walk Day – a great way for fathers to spend time with their little girls and kick off National Anti-Boredom Month in July. Although there were a number of inspirational stories of fathers and daughters spending time together yesterday, I’d like to highlight an especially poignant story of a real man who is a real father and a real inspiration: Cincinnati Bengal’s defensive tackle, Devon Still.

Devon Still’s 5-year-old little girl, Leah, was diagnosed last year with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma, a rare and severe type of cancer. She bravely has undergone surgery to remove her tumor and is completing radiation therapy to keep her cancer in remission.

Although it cost Still during the 2014 NFL season – he is currently a fourth-year player competing for the remaining spot in his position – he traveled weekly to be with his daughter for her treatments. He credits his daughter for being his driving motivation, and thanks the team for allowing him to “be a father first” last season. Still has vowed to take advantage of the opportunity and return the favor. Training hard in the off-season, Still is preparing to return to NFL training at the end of July. On his Instagram, he is looking ready to run and hit hard.

But he didn’t show up to his off-season work-out alone on July 7. On National Father-Daughter Take a Walk Day, Still walked out and around his training field in Philadelphia with his daughter Leah, fresh from completing her first round of radiation treatment. She may be wearing a mask over her mouth, but her eyes are certainly smiling.

Not only am I inspired by this courageous and adorable little girl who brings hope to so many who know her, but I am moved by this father’s dedication to his family. I am moved by his generosity. Recently, Still used his network to help the family of another child dealing with the same cancer as his daughter Leah. An exemplary father, Devon Still not only teaches his child how she should walk strong in the face of physical challenges, but he teaches her how to walk strong in a path of true respect for others and commitment to being a better person.

On the same day, another in a long list of scandals involving football players made the rounds as media fodder, as we saw the looped short-clip video of a former (never-played-a-game-in-uniform) FSU quarterback-wannabe displaying an outrageous act of disrespect to himself, to women, and to his fellow football players everywhere. In a huge moment of “What was he thinking?” glory, he showed himself unworthy to set foot on a field with real men.

But we’ve come to expect this – football players acting badly, setting a poor example, getting away with atrocious behavior.

What we haven’t come to expect, and what should always be lauded and given space on every newsfeed instead, are the inspirational stories of NFL players who remain grounded, who are inspired by those around them, and who remain committed to loving things bigger than themselves and their egos. Players who prove themselves to be real men, worthy to step on the field and play against other men.

Devon Still is a real father. Real fathers are real men.

Devon Still’s relationship to his daughter Leah is not only an inspiration because he loves her more than he loves the game or the fame. It is not only admirable because he lists her as one of his biggest inspirations and motivations to be a better person. It is legendary because of the example he sets for fellow players, fathers, and men everywhere. His walking and playing with Leah on July 7 shows that he understands this: sacrifice for something you love more than yourself is what makes everything else you do worthwhile.

Do you have a story about a remarkable dad? Tell us! Comments and Tweets always welcome.

Check out our Father’s Day blogs, “10 Dad Skills Remembered” and “What is a Dad?” for more stories of how fathers change lives.

About Cortni Merritt

Managing Editor, Cortni Merritt, MA, reads everything she comes across. She has degrees in both psychology and English, and has been a composition instructor, and a copywriter for lawyers, a coordinator at a dating service, and a property manager of apartments. Cortni makes it her mission to read people's stories.

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