<
>

Devon Still talks with Sean Payton

NEW ORLEANS -- Devon Still was eager all last week to meet New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton for the first time, and to personally thank him for being one of the first to assist in his fight against pediatric cancer.

On Sunday afternoon, moments after Still's Cincinnati Bengals beat the Saints, the defensive tackle got his opportunity.

Near midfield following the 27-10 win, Still and Payton exchanged a handshake and an embrace. Payton also spoke to Still for a moment before the two went their separate ways.

"It was great to see him," Payton said. "Much has been written and talked about with the story. So it's good seeing him for the first time."

Still, who was inactive for just the second time this season, wasn't in the locker room during the postgame interview period.

Back in September, Payton purchased 100 of Still's $100 No. 75 jerseys from the Bengals' pro shop. The jerseys never made it to New Orleans, though, as the coach had them donated to Boys and Girls Clubs in Cincinnati.

The money from the jerseys counted toward the nearly $1.3 million the Bengals and Still raised during a broader jersey sale fundraiser that lasted the better part of September and October.

People from across the globe participated. All proceeds went to the Cincinnati Children's Hospital and Medical Center's pediatric cancer research efforts.

Between the first and second quarters of last week's Thursday night game against the Browns, the Bengals presented the $1.3 million check to the hospital.

"You really can't thank somebody the way you want to or are supposed to over the phone," Still said last Wednesday. "It's something you have to do face to face."

His 4-year-old daughter, Leah, has become the face of pediatric cancer this fall amid her highly publicized fight with neuroblastoma. While she had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor last month, Leah still has cancerous cells in her chest and lower extremities.

She and her family are now awaiting the results of a radiation treatment she had last week. Her father said it could take another five weeks until the results are known.

Leah's story gained international attention at the end of August, about three months after she was diagnosed. At that time, the Bengals released Still as they made end-of-preseason roster cuts to get to the current 53-man active roster.

Two days later, he was re-signed onto the Bengals' practice squad, helping him retain the NFL's insurance so that he could pay the full amount of Leah's medical treatments.

Still was added onto the active roster a week after that and had appeared in every game since being added before Sunday's.

Although he didn't suit up, Still was on the Bengals' sideline for the game. During the game's first between-quarter break, the Superdome's video board displayed a photo of Leah and Devon Still, along with a message about their efforts to raise funds and awareness about pediatric cancer.

For a little more than a month, the Bengals sold Still's No. 75 jersey through their pro shop as part of their attempt to help Still get his message out.

"You pray for his daughter," Payton said, "you pray for his family."

Cameras caught Still on the sideline during the public address announcement. As he waved, loud cheers reverberated throughout the building.

Earlier this season, Patriots owner Robert Kraft donated $25,000 in Leah's name for pediatric cancer research efforts.

The same night that Kraft's donation was announced, New England Patriots cheerleaders brought Still to tears when they took off their team jackets, revealing the orange-and-black No. 75 Still jerseys they had purchased earlier in the week.

The Patriots' gestures came three weeks after Payton heard about Still's story on the radio and decided to buy the jerseys.

Still has 17 tackles in eight games this season.