There’s been a lot of talk lately about Ohio sports teams. How many games do you think the Browns will win this season? Can the Cavs get any respect with LeBron back in Ohio? Will the Blue Jackets return to the playoffs?
But do you ever hear people ask, “What about the players on the practice squads?” Not until now. That’s because there’s one member of the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad who’s not fully focused on football and this weekend’s game. That’s Devon Still.
Still is a father of a four year-old daughter who’s in a much more important fight than a Sunday afternoon football game. Leah’s been diagnosed with cancer.
The only numbers she’s worried about are her blood counts and treatment dates.
In a move that’s warmed the hearts of even the biggest and meanest players on the field, the Bengals have put Still on the practice squad. This means he won’t have to travel with the team and will still collect his weekly salary and still has medical coverage through the team.
The Bengals have gone even farther than simply enabling Still to stay employed. They recently announced that proceeds from the sale of Still’s jersey will be directed to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital where his daughter is being treated. And one morning recently on Mike & Mike I heard that fellow NFL head coach Sean Payton bought 100 of the smallest size jerseys they sell and reportedly arranged to have the jerseys packaged up and delivered to children at the very same hospital. Not only does the hospital get Payton’s contribution, but I would’ve loved to have seen the smiles those jerseys brought to kids in the hospital.
On top of that, there is more encouraging news for Leah. According to the National Cancer Institute, pediatric cancer survival rates have improved from 63 percent in the 1970’s to over 83 percent in recent years. They attribute this improvement to more recently available treatment options and in increase in the number of children who participate in cancer clinical trials, according to their website.
But not everyone makes an NFL salary.
Some people can’t even keep their jobs when a child gets sick, which means they face a double threat: no income, and no insurance to help cover the costs of a child living with cancer. While there’s a lot wrong in professional sports and the NFL in particular, I for one will be rooting for the Bengals for doing the right thing. The Bengals figured out they had a chance to make a difference and they took it, even though some might say it is costing the organization.
What do I say? Go Bengals! But more importantly, Go Leah!
Image by Jeffrey Beall