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.”
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