Lineman Still is PSU's father figure

| Friday, Sept. 16, 2011

UNIVERSITY PARK -- At 22 years old, Penn State senior defensive tackle Devon Still has more on his plate than most.

By day, he balances science courses with African-American studies, mixed in with film sessions and weight training. It's enough to leave his teammates drained. But after the 6-foot-5, 310-pound Still leaves the football field, he has another job.

He's dad.

At home, his deep voice turns into a whisper, as he's busy in his off-campus apartment doing homework and changing the occasional diaper of his 17-month-old daughter, Leah Still. He's no longer the nasty, run-stuffing anchor of the defensive line; he's more of a gentle giant.

"Just like the baby talk that I do, I never expected myself to be talking in that type of voice," Still said with a laugh. "I know it shocked me as well as my girlfriend."

With NFL scouts keeping close tabs, he's aware that if he stays healthy and keeps playing at a high level, providing for his family come April could be a lot easier.

Opposing offenses have been wary of facing the All-Big Ten candidate who has been on a tear since his career-best, seven-tackle performance in the Outback Bowl in January. Still matched that number last week against Alabama, and this week Temple coach Steve Addazio dubbed him a "potential first-round pick."

Still, of Wilmington, Del., will play in front of at least 20 family members and friends at noon Saturday when the Lions (1-1) head to Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia to face the Owls (2-0). Playing on a professional field could be a glimpse of what is to come.

"Having a daughter helped me become more serious about the goals I want to achieve," Still said. "I'm no longer responsible just for my life and my world. I'm also responsible for hers."

The stakes have never been higher.

He and his girlfriend adjust their sleep schedules and perform a full-time juggling routine to make it work. So far the results have been positive.

"In his own quiet way, he's a guy that leads by performance," Joe Paterno said. "He's one of the guys that right now is going to have to come to the front and pick up a couple guys that have not had the kind of success he's had or paid the price he's paid to be good."

As much as the defense loves having him on the field, Still is equally as grateful for his teammates, who have chipped in to help baby-sit. His former roommate, running back Stephfon Green, helped during the past year and even changed diapers. But as Leah's gotten older, she's become too much of a handful for Green, Still joked.

"That's just how it is with this team," he said. "We're real good friends off the field, and I have a lot of trust with the people on the team."

The patience and flexibility Still has learned as a parent has carried to the field and earned him more respect from his teammates.

And at home.

"He calls me sometimes and is like, 'Dad, there's a lot to raising a kid.' I said, 'Son, I know," said Devon's father, Antonio Still Sr. "It's very demanding, but I'm proud of how he's handled it."

On schedule to graduate with a crime, law and justice degree in December, Still said he never imagined his life would come together as well as it has. He understands college football and a baby girl may not exactly go hand-in-hand, but he wouldn't change a thing.

"No matter how anything goes on the football field, she's always going to love me," Still said. "Every time I get to come home and just see her smile, it just changes my day. I love being a father."

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