Ex-Bengal Still honored by NFLPA, cancer center
In the heart of the Georgetown University Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, beakers, binders and bottles line the walls of room E316. On a refrigerator hang two lab coats, one for Devon Still, the former Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle, and one for DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association. This is where Jeffrey Toretsky, a pediatric oncologist who conducts research on Ewing’s sarcoma, a form of bone cancer most often found in children, does his work.
On Friday, he was there to talk with Still and Smith about his research. They went through a quick lesson on how to work with cancerous cells. They looked through microscopes and discussed strains, mutations and genetic fingerprinting.
“I try to take my down time and do as much research on cancer as possible and watch different documentaries to show how scientists research different cancers,” said Still, 26, whose daughter, Leah, was diagnosed with cancer in September 2014. “It’s coming to places like this. It lets me know that going public with my daughter’s story is worth it because we are able to raise the research dollars that these scientists need to continue to do their research to try to find a cure for different cancers.”
When he went public, the country quickly became enamored with Leah’s story. The hashtag #LeahStrong grew in popularity as followers and fans began to show support for the 5year-old, who was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. Now, with Leah’s cancer in remission, Devon was honored by the center and the NFL Players Association at the 29th Annual Lombardi Gala on Saturday in D.C.
Devon’s experience has been humbling in more ways than one. He didn’t know what to expect when the news first came out. “It just shows how many good people are out there and willing to help. You know, you see a lot of things in the news that’s bad, and you see a lot of things that divide people, but when I went public with my daughter’s story, you saw the whole country come together because everybody’s touched by kids who really are not getting a fair chance at life and not getting a fair chance to experience childhood,” he said. “So to see the NFL come together and allow us to use that platform to continue to get my daughter’s story out there so that more awareness is being raised, it meant a lot to us.”
Before they left, Toretsky had a gift for Still: another lab coat, this one emblazoned with Leah’s name.
“It might be a nice little Halloween costume,” he said with a smile.