Last year, the nation was captivated by a young NFL dad and his spunky, charismatic daughter in the battle of her life. Since then, Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Devon Still has shared the brave fight he’s facing with his five-year-old daughter, Leah Still, who was diagnosed with a form of pediatric cancer in 2013.
Tonight, Devon accepted the Jimmy V. Perseverance Award on behalf of Leah, who was too sick to attend the ceremony. Even though Leah wasn’t well enough to take the stage, she did leave her dad with some champion-style advice. “She told me to hold it down for us on that stage and that’s what I’m going to do!” Devon wrote on Instagram.
Devon thanked LeBron James, who presented him the award, for being another man her daughter could look up to. Devon explained the story of the nightmare no parent wants to face. “At the age of four, my daughter hadn’t even begin to learn what life is all about.” He shared their fight in his acceptance speech.
“We had two options: we could have lost faith and let this battle get the best of us, or I could give my daughter’s cancer a purpose.” He didn’t escape with liquor or vices to escape the darkness, because he told her daughter not to give up. Instead, he leaned on prayer and the strength of his fiance. He thanked her for being so unselfish to wait for their wedding until Leah could walk down the aisle as a flower girl.
Devon also thanked his very special five-year-old daughter. “From the moment you were born, you molded me into the man I am today.” And Leah closed the speech with a special video message of her own. “Sorry I couldn’t be there everybody but thank you for supporting me while I beat up cancer.”
Leah’s cancer went in remission this March, but she’s undergoing radiation and stem-cell therapy to strengthen her immune system.
The Jimmy V. Perseverance Award is named after NC state’s men’s coach, the legendary Jimmy Valvano, whose emotional speech about his own battle with cancer in 1993 continues to be the powerful moment in ESPY Awards history. Past recipients include NBA coach George Karl and former Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand. Last year’s Jimmy V. Perseverance Award recipient, the late Stuart Scott left an imprint on sports fans around the world with his incredible message: “You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner by which you live.”
Catch All The Action From The 2015 ESPY Awards Red Carpet
1. Russell Wilson and CiaraSource:Getty 1 of 29
2. CiaraSource:Getty 2 of 29
3. Derek Jeter and Model Hannah DavisSource:Getty 3 of 29
4. Odell Beckham Jr.Source:Getty 4 of 29
5. Destinee HookerSource:Getty 5 of 29
6. Robin RobertsSource:Getty 6 of 29
7. Evander HolyfieldSource:Getty 7 of 29
8. Ronda RouseySource:Getty 8 of 29
9. WWE wrestlers Brie Bella (L) and Nikki BellaSource:Getty 9 of 29
10. Ronda RouseySource:Getty 10 of 29
11. Brandon LaFellSource:Getty 11 of 29
12. Roman ReignsSource:Getty 12 of 29
13. Ben SimmonsSource:Getty 13 of 29
14. Joel McHaleSource:Getty 14 of 29
15. Justice WinslowSource:Getty 15 of 29
16. Lisa LeslieSource:Getty 16 of 29
17. Christen PressSource:Getty 17 of 29
18. Ron HunterSource:Getty 18 of 29
19. Jarvis LandrySource:Getty 19 of 29
20. J.J. WattSource:Getty 20 of 29
21. Ricardo LocketteSource:Getty 21 of 29
22. Alex RodriguezSource:Getty 22 of 29
23. Britney SpearsSource:Getty 23 of 29
24. Hope Solo and NFL player Jerramy StevensSource:Getty 24 of 29
25. FabolousSource:Getty 25 of 29
26. Kylie JennerSource:Getty 26 of 29
27. Kendall and Kylie JennerSource:Getty 27 of 29
28. Halle BerrySource:Getty 28 of 29
29. Jake Gyllenhaal and Rachel McAdamsSource:Getty 29 of 29
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