So often we feel like we have to mask what we are going through.
We hide our fears.
We cover our scars.
But the adversity you face makes you a stronger person.
You’re not the only one who is battling something. The more vulnerable you can be about what you’re up against, the more other people will be able to support you. It’s going to take a team effort.
Don’t let a weak moment become a weak mindset.
On today’s episode of The School of Greatness, I talk with a former NFL player who is now tackling childhood cancer: Devon Still.
Devon Still is a professional athlete, entrepreneur, motivational speaker, and advocate for childhood cancer awareness. He is also a former Houston Texan’s defensive end, a former Cincinnati Bengals’ defensive tackle, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, and a Penn State University All-American. Perhaps most importantly, he is Leah’s dad, helping her publicly “beat up cancer” and embarking on a pediatric cancer-fighting journey.
Devon shared that once he opened up about his daughter’s battle with cancer, the more love and connection he felt. He now wants everyone to be vulnerable about the storms they are facing.
He also knows the importance of having fun along the way.
So get ready to learn Devon’s lessons from the football field and life on Episode 764.
Lewis: This is episode number 764 with Devon Still. Welcome to the school of greatness my name is Lewis Howes a former athlete turned lifestyle entrepreneur and each week we bring you an inspiring person or message to help you discover how to unlock your inner greatness. Thanks for spending some time with me today, now let the class begin.
Joseph Campbell said “We must let go of the life we have planned so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” Have you ever been through an experience where you had a dream, you had an expectation for your life to go one way in a relationship maybe or supposed to be to work out, a career or dream supposed to work out and then all of a sudden it doesn’t work out. But later you reflect back and you realized ‘I’m so glad it never worked workout so this new life did work out. Well that’s part of the story with Devon Still for those who don’t know he is former NFL player defense and was drafted by Cincinnati in the 2nd round in the 2012 NFL draft. He played college at Penn State where he was an all American and also a member of the Houston Texans and New York Jets.
In this interview we talked about what it was like to be the captain of the football team at Penn State during a major controversy where his coach went through incredible criticism in the media and it was all over the world and how he was the one who step up to rally the team to finish the season. All the different ins and outs of that moment and what that was like.
Also talked about Devon’s life and how it completely changed after his 4 year old daughter was diagnosed with cancer. How he learned how to deal with cancer for his child as a new father. We talked about NFL and how it impacted his mindset on and off the field, and we discussed vulnerability through the power of owning your scars instead of hiding what you’ve been through.
Before we dive in want to thank our sponsor today trip actions. It’s the first travel platform designed from the ground up with the road warrior in mind, it’s easy to book your companies business travel from the app or desktop and with 24/7 proactive support around the globe and incentives for employees to save on travel expenses, companies large and small see over 90% adaption and save up to 30% on travel spend when they use trip actions. And trip actions rewards travelers for saving their company money and they’ll reward you just for checking them out. You can reshape your company’s business travel today with trip actions go to tripaction.com/greatness complete a 30 minute demo with a trip actions account executive and you get a $100 Amazon gift card but it’s this month only.
Also big thank you to our sponsor lending club. I remember when I started off in businesses I had 3 credit cards, I was paying off sleeping on my sister’s couch and was always stressful. With lending club you can consolidate your debt or pay off credit card with one fixed monthly payment. Since 2007 lending club has helped millions of people regain control of their finances with affordable fix rate personal loans, no trips to the bank, no credit cards just go to lendingclub.com/greatness. Tell them about yourself and how much you want to borrow. Pick the terms that are right for you and you’re approved your loan is automatically deposited into your bank account in as little as a few days. Lending club is the number 1 peer to peer lending platform with over 35 billion in loans issued. Go to lendingclub.com/greatness check your rate and minutes and borrow up to $40,000.
All right guys big thank you again to our sponsors I am so excited about this episode without further ado let me introduce to you the one the only Devon Still.
Devon: Good to be here.
Lewis: Good to see you brother I appreciate you being here. You got a new book out called ‘Still in the Game’ finding the faith to tackle life’s biggest challenge and you’ve been through a few big challenges I guess in the last 8 years. 1. You are the captain at Penn State, you’re the captain at Penn State and superstar there during the whole paterno your coach was going through. I can only imagine what that could have been like. This is crazy and what’s more crazy is being an athlete, while you’re trying to play and all this is happening and you’re the captain.
Devon: It was tough I felt like not only were the players relying on me but the whole coaching staff was, just to be able to keep the team upbeat and keep them jell together and focus on football. It was tough but it was a responsibility I had as a captain when I decided to step up and lead the team.
Lewis: What was that like? I mean did he recruit you?
Devon: He did, it was interesting because during this time Joe has just got injured, he fractured his hip during practice. So he wasn’t travelling a lot and during my senior year in high school he actually made the trip to my high school.
He came to visit me to show me how important it was for me to come to Penn State and after he did that it was a no brainer.
Lewis: So he came and he watched your practice or he just came?
Devon: He just came and met with me and my family and my coach inside the school office.
Lewis: And you were there, you didn’t register you played right away pretty much.
Devon: Well I was supposed to play right away but then I ended up tearing my ACL in training camp so I had to rest my first year.
Lewis: What was he like for those 5 years?
Devon: He was an amazing person to be honest, a lot of people thought that he was getting old and he wasn’t really a part of the program as much as calling the plays and stuff, but he was very involved. You know as an 80 year old it was impeccable to see the way he maneuver.
Lewis: He probably seen so much for how long?
Lewis: 60 years I mean you get so good at something. He seen every instance.
Devon: He didn’t even have to see how the beginning of a play unfolded like all he had to do was see what you did wrong in the beginning. His football IQ was ridiculous.
Lewis: And you felt like he was a great coach those 4 or 5 years for you?
Devon: For me because I think he bought a lot of structure to the program like you hear a lot of coaches’ say it’s important to be a student athlete, but he really embodied that, he really put a lot of focus on making that his players were the best student they can possibly be.
Lewis: Now in the whole scandal came out about because it was the assistant coach was it?
Lewis: Was he the assistant coach?
Devon: When he was at Penn State I believe he was the defensive coordinator up until 2000 year and then he had step away from the program and I’ve been seeing him 2 or 3 times working out in the weight room while I was there but he wasn’t a guy that talk too much.
Lewis: So when the news came out he wasn’t really working there then? The news came out there was a lot of pressure on Joe right? It was in the middle of the season?
Devon: It was towards the end so it’s around November, right before our senior night that the news have broken. The crazy thing is that Joe called a squad meeting and he told the team that some news is gonna come up. So we left that meeting I didn’t think it was that big of a deal, but I remember just sitting in my living room on my off campus apartment and they announce that Jerry has been caught for all the things he admitted. It just blew my mind completely because I wasn’t expecting to hear anything, I don’t think anybody was.
Lewis: And so it was right before senior night what happened after that?
Devon: So the next day we had another squad meeting and Joe let us know everything that was going on and he said that he was gonna finish out the season because they were asking for him to step down. And he told us that he was going to finish out the season and he was going to retire after the season. But what I remember is that squad meeting he did something I never forget, he always stand in front of the room at his podium and then when he’s finish with the meeting he turns to the left and he goes to walk out the double doors that we had in front of the squad meeting. And as soon as he got those double doors he stop and he just look back at all of us when his eyes just started watering up, and to me that was a sign who was going to finish the season that was somebody who knew that it was coming to an end really soon, and when we walked out that door that was the last time he was the head of our team.
Lewis: So didn’t coach practice in that next game and that he was done for the season?
Devon: He was done.
Lewis: Didn’t he die soon after the season?
Devon: So what happened was he got fired right before our senior, so they promoted our defensive coordinator to be the head coach at the time. And when I graduated and I went on to train for the combine when I was down on the floor I got the news that coach Paterno has passed away, which I thought was gonna happen anyway because he live and breathe football. Then when you take away somebody’s reason for living what do you have to live for? So, it wasn’t a shock that happened to him.
Lewis: Did you talked to him after all this stuff occurred?
Devon: No I didn’t because it was such a media circus so much going on with him and his family that I felt like that was the time for him to be around his family and figure out what’s going on. The last time I talked to him was when the last time I saw him.
Lewis: That was the last time you saw him? A few months later he was gone. What was the biggest lessons that he taught you that were really valuable for you?
Devon: I guess the biggest one because people always ask me about the Penn State and how do you feel about Joe Paterno being fired? And honestly feel like the way that they fired him was wrong, when somebody gives 60 years of their life to a program and really help change people look at Penn State you don’t fire them over the phone regardless of what has transpired; you meet with them face to face and let them know what’s going on. So, for them to fire him over the phone I think was very disrespectful. One of the things that Joe taught us as a leader you have to be willing to take the credit whether good or bad for the actions that the people underneath you take. This happened under his watch so I’m pretty sure that he understands to take the responsibility for that and he could not go on to that program, it would have been ridiculous if he did because as a father the amount of pain that was brought to those children and to those families is ridiculous, and somebody has to be held accountable for that.
Lewis: How do you view him today?
Devon: Because I knew who he is, I know the type of person he is but I honestly feel like there should’ve been more done. I feel like as adults we have to do everything we can to protect our children, whether you report what was going on or not if you saw that nobody took any action then you need to make sure that somebody take action to protect our kids.
Lewis: So do you feel like he was in the wrong the whole time and knew about this and wasn’t willing to address it or just sweep on the rug?
Devon: It’s so crazy because you hear a lot of mix stories, I’m not sure what exactly Joe knew but I feel as though the information that he came out and he said he knew you have to do more, like you have to do more to protect our children. So with the information I know that he had he should’ve done more.
Lewis: What is the biggest lesson you learned about yourself being at Penn State during that time?
Devon: A lot have been at Penn State, actually I was one of the biggest recruit coming out of high school. I’ve had over 50 scholarships to play football at pretty much every division 1 school in the country. But when I got to Penn I faced 2 huge obstacles, you know my freshman year I ended up tearing my ACL and MCL and that ended my whole year and it was really deflating but I fought my way back from that. In a year’s worth of rehab I ended up making it back to the football field the next training camp I end up breaking my leg. And that’s when I really hit a dark spot in my life where I just felt like my dreams of making it to the NFL was out of reach, you know I probably wouldn’t have make it back to the football field because this is what people were telling me. What I think helped me through those times is when I first decided that I wanted to make it to the NFL, I’ve visualized so strongly it was so vivid of my dreams making it to the NFL, I felt the feeling that I would get making it to the NFL so intensely so that when this obstacles and adversities thrown at my way, the feeling I got was so strong that it was stronger than any excuse I could’ve made to give up. So that really taught me the importance of visualizing your dreams and making sure that you sacrifice whatever you need to go through to make your dreams come true.
My daughter was born my junior year in college which really gave me that added motivation because I said to myself ‘I’m in so much pain right now from all the injuries I am facing, I’m in so much pain that my dream of making it to the NFL is over, but I understood the type of environment I grew up.’ I came from Wilmington, Delaware which is an environment stricken with drugs and violence. A lot of times I was with people one night and the next night we’re wearing their faces on shirts to funerals and I needed to make sure that whatever I did I need to provide a better life for my daughter than I have for myself. So having her I think gave me the extra motivation and made me understand that there was no turning around regardless of what I go through because my daughter cannot live in the same environment I grew up in.
Lewis: Now is your daughters mom is not your wife? Is it someone you met at Penn State?
Devon: No, it’s actually somebody I met in high school, so I met her in my senior year in high school.
Lewis: And things just didn’t work out between you guys?
Devon: No, I think it was just I was immature she was immature and we were kids being kids and we had a kid and you know we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into and I felt like the best thing for us was to go our separate ways because if we created this toxic environment for Leah it wouldn’t be good for her outcome.
Lewis: She is the mother and she lives?
Devon: She lives in Florida.
Lewis: But your daughter is with you all the time?
Devon: Yes, the first year living with me in Houston has been pretty cool. It’s a lot of responsibility but I enjoy it so much especially because Leah has a stage 4 cancer so there was the time in my life I didn’t know how much time I have with her, you know I didn’t know if I was going to be able to experience all the things that dad are able to experience watching their kids grow up. So, to have her every single day, I put in sports for the first time after she ask me because she ask me to play soccer.
Lewis: So when she was 4 you guys got the word that she has cancer, how did you guys find out about this?
Devon: So, I put Leah into dance class during the offseason and I had to go back out to Cincinnati because we were living in Delaware. Her big dance recital was coming up and I asked Coach Lewis if I can leave OTA’s to go back and support my daughter because that’s something my parents always did for me. There were divorced they had their issues but every time I looked up to the stands of my games they were sitting right next to each other.
Lewis: Both of them?
Devon: Yup. So, I knew how much that meant for me to be able to look at the stands and see my parents there supporting me, so I needed to make sure I was there for my daughter’s dance recital. So, I went back home and she went out to breakfast with her maternal grandmother that morning and I remember driving, I went back and stayed my then girlfriend at her house and she worked at the mall right next to Leah went for breakfast. So, I went to drop my wife off at her job and as I was going home I passed the ihop and sitting at a red light and I get a phone call and it’s Leah’s grandmother telling me that Leah is not eating her food, she’s acting very lethargic that I needed to set up a doctor’s appointment to find out what’s going on with her.
So, I was gonna wait till I got home to call her pediatrician to set up an appointment, when I was sitting at the red light something told me that I needed to act now, so I made the U-turn and pulled into the parking lot when I walked into the restaurant Leah was there sitting with her head down on the table, and when I was talking to her she wasn’t really responding and she was looking at me but wasn’t responding and she had a really high fever when I touched her head. So, I took her out the street to the urgent care and I let them know what was going on hoping that they were going to tell me an ear infection or something but they didn’t find anything wrong. So, I started to tell them about leg pain that Leah had been complaining about for some months but I thought it was because of gymnastics. They touched her hip and she jump from the doctor and the doctor told us that it could be probably a hip infection for her.
So they sent us down the children’s hospital about half a mile down the street and they ran some blood work on her, they came into the room and told us it can be 10 different things and the last thing they said was cancer. But after giving her ultrasound they found a tumor in her stomach and then I ask more testing and we ended up finding out that she had cancer.
Lewis: That day you found out?
Devon: That day.
Lewis: How does this happen to kids so young?
Devon: I have no idea. They said it wasn’t genetic and because more [?] which is a nerve tissue form of cancer that’s usually found on your [?] gland, there’s no signs that you can catch it early on. So, I’m not sure how this happens to kids but hopefully if we can continue to raise awareness and continue to raise money for research one day we’ll find out so families don’t have to experience the pain that me and so many other families have experienced.
Lewis: Stage 4 is the worst? Is there a stage 5?
Devon: The last stage.
Lewis: If you wouldn’t have caught it how much longer would she have to live?
Devon: I’m not sure how long she would’ve had I’m glad that I didn’t have to find that out but when we found out that she had a 50% change of beating the disease.
Lewis: The next 2 years you guys were in the hospital, I remember because you were in the ESPYS 3 or 4 years ago.
Lewis: You gave a speech and she was there.
Devon: She just got her stem cell transplant and so her white blood count was so slow that she wasn’t allowed to travel a lot.
Lewis: So what was that like from the moment you heard of that she had cancer and how much longer was it until she went through her journey?
Devon: It was a year and a half until she started and then it was tough. So she would go in for 5 days and she would get out if everything went well her A and C rolls, which is basically the amount of white blood cell that are able to fight off any type of infection. So, we’re usually being there for about 5 days, we’ll get a 21 day break and then she’ll go back in for another 5 days. It was a roller coaster because I didn’t know anything about this world, so when the doctors are speaking to me I feel like they are speaking to me in a foreign language. So I had to do so much research in a short amount of time to try myself catch up to speed the terminology that these doctors were using, and they had just came out with a new clinical trial for kids who had this type of cancer which was called MIBG, which is a radiation type of treatment. So they thought that this was gonna be the treatment to cure Leah and so did I. So we started off a couple of months of high dosage chemo and then we gave her the MIBG radiation, it was the craziest experience I ever saw in my life because they put you in this room that’s covered in complete plastic and this metal door separating from you and the outside world, so nobody was allowed to go into the room with Leah for 5 days.
Lewis: 5 days?
Devon: And then doctors would come in with suits so as not to get in contact with radiation. It was crazy not to just be able hug her and let her know it was going to be okay, because she had to be in there by herself.
Lewis: How old was she?
Devon: She was 4.
Lewis: She can talk to you FaceTime or something?
Devon: She had iPad that took all her attention.
Lewis: That’s it?
Devon: She was strong.
Lewis: Were you just like watching her in another room?
Devon: So they had a little bench outside the room and there was a little square door inside the metal door where we be able to look in and see what she’s doing.
Lewis: That much radiation. What does that do to someone’s body with that much radiation?
Devon: Straight damage. The amount of chemo they put inside your body and radiation is so much toxic that you’re killing other organs who are trying to kill the cancer cells.
Lewis: Can your body recover though? Can your organs years after?
Devon: Not completely, Leah still has issues dealing with her from the amount of chemo that she got and the radiation. So you’re gonna have lasting effects way past you know the day.
Lewis: But the goal is hoping that the body will recover and heal itself enough?
Devon: For me to be honest the goal was just to make sure that my daughter is alive, like whatever we had to do with the ramifications of that type treatment we were gonna do, the main goal to make anything possible to make my daughter alive.
Lewis: Better be alive and have some issues.
Lewis: I want to take a moment from this interview and talk to you about organifi gold. Organifi gold is the answer to better sleep. You know how much I care about my body, my health and optimize my performance in life well you need great sleep to recover and have the energy throughout the day with your high performance. With organifi gold you just add it to hot water and you drink it and you let your body soaked up the benefits. Now, if you’ve ever gone days without getting good sleep you know how frustrating it can be, you feel tired all day and you’re dragging and it’s hard to reach peak performance when you haven’t slept and Americans are spending 50 billion dollars a year on sleeping pills, the irony is those pills don’t let you get the rejuvenating rest that your body needs, and that’s why the superior nutrition provided by organifi gold can help in so many ways. It is one of the reasons why I love using organifi, it’s so quick and easy but also taste great and right now you can go to organifi.com and use the code Lewis at checkout to get 20% off your order.
Lewis: So how’s she been doing now?
Devon: She’s been doing good because that treatment didn’t worked. That treatment didn’t worked which is one of the scariest things I ever went to in my life because we ended up getting test done and found out that the cancer spread all over her body. It went from her hip to her shoulders and that was probably the real moment when I came to realization that I probably was gonna lose my daughter. I really have to have that talked with myself about what my life would be without her. There were times this was playing so many tricks in my mind that I could literally be looking at a family picture and my daughter would fade out the picture, this is the moment that I knew something wrong is going in my head because my daughter literally fade out of the pictures. But thank God just from playing football and the first thing they teach us when we play sports is that it doesn’t matter what the scoreboard says you give it everything you have no matter how tired you are, no matter how much pain you’re in. So the cancer spread all over the body and I looked at my daughter and I told her that ‘we still have time left, we still have other options and we’re not giving up until they bury me or they bury you.’ So they ended up coming out with a new treatment that we put her in and the scary thing about this treatment was we couldn’t choose what she went into, all you can say is “Yes, we want her to be a part of the clinical trial.’ And then the computer would randomly pick a treatment for her which is arm a or arm b, thank God the computer pick the right treatment because my daughter wouldn’t be here today .
Lewis: So you spent treatment a couple of months and worked?
Devon: It worked.
Lewis: It’s been 4 years now?
Devon: 5 years until we can be declared cancer free but we live our life like she’s cancer free already.
Lewis: What is that like then when you see her photo fade away?
Devon: It’s scary because I still have a job to do, I still have to play football.
Lewis: You were playing in the NFL?
Devon: I was in the NFL and I did not know how to balance all of this. When the story broke a lot of people thought that I had got release because I wasn’t performing at a good level but I talked about it in my book that’s not true, I was actually told I was playing the best out of all the defensive line. Because I was in Cincinnati and Leah was in Philadelphia there was so many times where I just wanted to be with my daughter to hug her and let her know it was gonna be okay, because I was watching her change over FaceTime, I was watching her lose weight and as a father I couldn’t hug her or kiss her to let her know it was gonna be okay. So there were times where I just walked out of meetings because tears would just fall down my eyes as we’re watching films or we’ll be at practice. One time when I walked out on a meeting I was sitting in the hallway crying, the GM saw me and he knew I was supposed to be in a meeting. And that’s when I knew I was probably gonna be released because when you’re playing at this level you have to dedicate 100% of your time to this game or else it’s not gonna do good. So struggling with that was the hardest thing I ever had to figure out to do in my life.
Lewis: How many years did you play?
Devon: 5 years.
Lewis: 5 years in the league and do you feel like, you also started to get injuries too is that right?
Devon: This is the crazy thing is my 2nd year I’m having a bigger role on the team, I’m playing really well, I dislocated my elbows against the lions. So I have to fight my way back 5 weeks into that injury and I make it back to play San Diego, I did okay. The next game we played the Steelers and I blew my back out and ended up getting a back surgery so I was done for the season. I ended up flying home to Philadelphia to be with my daughter and I get rested at a hospital with blood clots in my lungs and they told me if I didn’t make it to the hospital when I did then I probably wouldn’t be alive. So all these started happening and I just knew that my life was not going right and my life felt like it was falling apart. And my wife talked me into getting back to church because I never really went to church, I didn’t have a strong foundation in church, but she just felt that I could find some guidance there. So we went to church a couple of months later we get baptized, we give our lives to God we think that our life is going to turn around for the better. 2 months later Leah was diagnosed with a cancer and this all happened in an 8 month timeframe. So I just felt like my world was falling apart.
Lewis: After that you stop playing?
Devon: No. 2014 I got released I got picked back up on a practice squad then a week later I got put back on the active roster.
Lewis: After you got the back surgery and everything else?
Devon: Yeah, and then 2015 I didn’t play that year, I stayed in Philadelphia with my daughter to help her finish the treatment and then I made it back from that and got sign with the Texans.
Lewis: 1 year with them?
Devon: 3rd game of the season foot surgery.
Lewis: And now you’re on a boot for a second surgery. So that was the end?
Devon: I made it back because I want to prove to myself that injury wasn’t gonna stop me from living my dreams. So I made it back from that foot injury with the Jets but it was like after every training camp practice when I went back to my room, I felt like I wanted to cut my foot off and I realize at that moment, it was probably time for me to hang it up because I didn’t want to impact my well-being outside of football and get older. I still want to be able to go out with my kids and play with them in a backyard and I wasn’t willing to sacrifice that for my dream of playing in the NFL.
Lewis: Do you miss it at all?
Devon: Yeah, I do to be honest with you but I think that we can miss things in life and not want it back and I’m not sure if I really miss playing the game or do I miss the routine. To be honest with you I feel like I never got to enjoy playing in NFL, like I worked so hard to get there but never got to enjoy it because of injuries and my daughter’s battle with cancer. So it’s tough since I’ve been playing since I was 13 and I tell everybody it’s like a relationship, you dedicate so much time and effort into the relationship and you never really reach that level of marriage and then you have to start all over again.
Lewis: Did you feel like your identity was?
Devon: Yeah, because everybody says that’s NFL player that’s the football player. No, I’m not the football player. So it was important for me to sit down and find out who exactly I really am and I think the great thing about me is always been level headed, I knew I wasn’t a football player I play football and right before I got drafted I remember Oprah saying something that completely change my life and she said “If you don’t know who you are before the money and fame comes you’ll never know who you are.” So I made sure I knew who I was as a man if I made it to the NFL that I didn’t allow the identity of being an NFL player to consume me completely.
Lewis: How have you been able to reinvent yourself? Your identity through the last few years.
Devon: So it was taking the lessons that I learned from football, you hear people say all the time that it’s the journey not the destination and it’s completely true because I look at climbing a mountain, see the first mountain you climb is hard if you don’t know what you’re doing but when you get to that top of the mountain sometimes if it was what you’re thinking it or sometimes it’s not and you have to start all over and climb a new mountain. The second mountain you climb, you are well more equipped because you understand what it takes in order to get to the top, and for me that’s what I am doing now taking this mindset that I took to become a part of the 1% athlete that ever made it to the NFL to now create a new identity for myself and become the top of the world I am in now.
Lewis: What do you feel like was the biggest lesson for you from football?
Devon: I think the best lesson that football has probably ever taught me was that it’s not over till it’s over. What I said earlier about fighting till the clock hit zero, because there’s a lot of obstacle that we’re gonna face in our lives. Whether it’s in a football field, basketball court or just in life in general if you’re not really willing to fight and give it everything you have as long as you’re alive then what are you really doing it for? And I feel like that has helped me in my success in football, helped me with Leah in cancer and it’s going to help me with whatever I am going to try in the future.
Lewis: What’s your mission moving forward?
Devon: Right now it’s definitely to get my winning book to people all over the world and teach them the lesson that I’ve learned to help me get to where I am today whether it’s through a book or speaking engagements, my podcast in Instagram. Right now my main objective is to put as many positivity into this world and let them know, let people know who you are facing it’s possible to overcome.
Lewis: What are some of the keys from the winning playbook?
Devon: There’s so much in there the best thing is what I have in the back cover which is ‘to be proud of your scars’ because a lot of people look at their scars as a bad thing, a lot of people try to hide the pain that they’re in but I believe that your scars really show that you overcame what tried to break you and the reason why I put that on the book was the night before Leah’s 7 hour surgery we’re sitting at a hotel room and she looks scared to death of the surgery that she was about to have. I go to sit on the bed with her and I just start talking to her and she started asking me questions like “Dad are they gonna cut me open?” So, I started to like pull up my pants and tried to show her the scars from my surgery and show her scars from my back surgery and let her know ‘Daddy has been through this too.’ So don’t look at your scars as a bad thing, look at it as you get older the scar to show people ‘look I had stage 4 cancer but I overcame it and I’m not afraid or ashamed to show this scars because this means that I overcame what tried to break me.’ So that’s probably the biggest message in that book is just to be proud of whatever you went through, it doesn’t have to be physical scar. A lot of people go through mental scar, a scar is a scar but if you’re still here to be able to talk about it it means you overcame something.
Lewis: It’s hard to trust someone who has no scars. It’s really hard to like trust someone or believe in someone if they’ve never faced some type of extreme adversity. What’s another winning lesson for you?
Devon: Something that you really talk a lot and it’s being vulnerable, allow yourself to be vulnerable because writing this book was very stressful because you had to relive certain moments of your life that you don’t want to relive, but it was also therapeutic in meaning I was able to learn a lot of things not only about myself but about my daughter. So I told you earlier about how I used to be on FaceTime with her and breakdown because I couldn’t hug her and let her know that it was going to be okay. But when we’re on FaceTime I will hold it together and I will cry when we hang up the phone because I didn’t want my daughter to see me crying because as a man I felt like we had to be strong, you know we have to be that rock. As a football player we’re taught the mentality that you can’t allow your opponents to see you being weak. So I took that approach and put my daughter.
Lewis: You feel like it was hurtful?
Devon: It was hurtful.
Lewis: She never got to see you.
Devon: Exactly. So when I was writing this book or about how we get off the phone and cry, she said “Dad I was doing the same thing. I would go to the bathroom when we hang up and cry because I wanted you to be here so bad but you are not.” And I realize that I had drop the ball because if I would allow my self be vulnerable and show her that how bad it was hurting me that I wasn’t there maybe we couldn’t have shared those moments crying on the phone together and letting her know it was okay.
Lewis: How old is she now?
Lewis: So you cry more often now?
Devon: Oh I let it go.
Lewis: What are the moments that makes you want to cry?
Devon: Because there’s a lot of things that I am not able to handle that my daughter says now that she’s older and she’s able to express herself about this journey. So we’re shooting a blog for YouTube and while we’re shooting this video Leah says to the camera she’s scared because she doesn’t want to lose her life. And when she said that I almost broke down and cried, I didn’t know what to say to be honest with you because as 8 year old there’s no way that you should be focus on losing your life, and normally I would just keep that to myself and just move on with it and not let Leah know the type of pain when she said that on what was going through my mind. So, I took her to my room and I just open up and let her know how I was feeling because we had a big day of testing ahead of us because the doctor said the cancer might be coming back.
Lewis: As opposed to living in fear you talk about the fear, you share and express it and it’s not scary anymore.
Devon: Instead of bottling it up and have to deal with it on your own when you know other people are experiencing that emotion. Knowing that you’re not alone is probably the biggest relief that anybody can have, because a lot of people feel like they’re fighting battles on their own. And when I saw the way that our story live battling with cancer touch people, it showed people that you’re not the only one battling cancer, you’re not the only person scared that you might lose your child I am going through it too but we can go to it together now that we know we’re not the only people fighting.
Lewis: What advice do you have to parents both father and mother of young kids who are going through some type of the same adversity?
Devon: The first one is to allow yourself to be vulnerable. Second is don’t blame yourself. The first thing I did when Leah got cancer was how is this my fault? What did I do wrong? I just started blaming myself for what my daughter was going through because when I first took her to the hospital they were poking her with all these needles and I remember it was probably the second day in the hospital she just looks at me with a room full of doctors or families and she goes “Dad this is all your fault.” And it ripped me apart and I just had to walk out the room and get my mind together, because although I knew it wasn’t my fault I felt like it was my fault. But I realized that you know I felt like I broke my promise that I made to her when she was first born that I was gonna do everything I could to protect her, there was nothing I could do to protect her but there was something I can do in that moment and that was to allow her to know that she wasn’t alone, that we were gonna fight this battle together. So it would just be vulnerable and understand that it’s not your fault and that you can make it through it. But allow yourself to have those weak moments don’t allow it to turn into a weak mindset, because there are times that I wanted to give up but I didn’t let that moment turn into a mindset and I decided to continue to fight.
Lewis: Don’t let the weak moment become a weak mindset. You can have the weak moments but don’t let it ruin your life, consume your mind forever. But that’s what I think vulnerability allows us to like have a moment, as opposed to like be tough and strong all the time we can be vulnerable for a moment but then it’s like we got to get our mindset back on track.
Devon: And that’s what I think gave the fight different meaning to the strength because I really thought being strong was to not show any signs of weakness, but now I feel like strength is showing people that you have your weak moments because so many people are afraid to do it that it takes a strong person to say “Look, I’m not okay I’m not going to wear this mask to try and make you feel comfortable.” It’s interesting because I’m at an interview yesterday and this lady walks up to me and she goes “I lost daughter to cancer 5 years ago, she was 24 years old and then after that I lost my mom and then my dad.” So, I ask the lady “How are you handling all these stuff?” She takes a deep breath and she looks down on the ground and there’s somebody runs over and says “She’s doing great.” No, you’re not. And it’s like so many people do that so many people with this mask acting like everything is okay to try and make other people comfortable because you said you were great to make her feel more comfortable. And until we allow ourselves to open up until we stop putting out into this world that you have to wear a mask and wear a smile when deep down inside you’re falling apart. So that’s probably one of the biggest things that I want people to get from this interview is to understand that you don’t have to be always okay.
Lewis: What do you and Leah talk about now?
Devon: Everything. She’s 8 and she just told me that she has first crush. It killed me but I had to put on a smile because I want to have that open communication, I don’t want to act like I’m angry that she told me that she had a crush.
Lewis: You’ve been through a lot of pain already.
Devon: But it’s, we talk about everything because we have a very close relationship. We have it before she was diagnosed with cancer and it only made our relationship stronger so just teach her about life because now kids are growing up in an environment with the internet or YouTube is teaching them so much about life and if you don’t get on top of things before the computer do, the computer is going to raise your kids and I can’t allow that to happen to my daughter.
Lewis: What’s your dream for your daughter over the next 15 or 20 years and what’s your dream for the next 15 or 20 years?
Devon: So my daughter my dream is for her is to make sure she live the dream, to let her know that she’s capable of doing whatever she puts her mind to and I think that she’s already proving that to herself with her battling cancer, let her know that she’s stronger than she ever thought she truly was.
For me my biggest dream right now is to just try living my purpose and teach people that no matter what you’re going through that you’re still in the game. I’ve been through so much in my life in a short amount of time but I realize that those storms because every storm that I went to it wasn’t meant to break me but it was meant to build me that life wasn’t always working against me, it was working for me.
Lewis: Well your book is out right now called ‘Still in the Game: Finding the faith.’ I’ve got a couple of final questions for you but where can we connect with you online?
Devon: I hangout a lot on Instagram you can find me @stillinthegame I really build a great community where people can open and really share the struggles that they’re going through and we are just trying to help each other through our struggle and motivate each other to overcome the obstacles we’re facing, and I am starting to have a bigger presence on YouTube.
Lewis: Devon Still on YouTube @stillinthegame on Instagram make sure to follow him there.
This called the 3 truths. If this is your last day and you can share 3 final truths with the world, lessons that you want the world to have that you’ve learned over your whole life experience and this is all people will have to remember you by, what would be those 3 lessons or 3 truths?
Devon: Number 1 would be just to let people know that failing in life doesn’t make you a failure. That is important for people to understand that you have to learn to accept failure but never accept defeat, because on your climb to the top it’s gonna be a lot of failures you experience but the people who are successful understand that failures come with success and they don’t allow those small failures to defeat them mentally, physically or spiritually they continue to move forward.
The next is to understand that no matter what you’re going through and support to always have fun. One of the lessons that I learned when I was playing little league football and I played on a really good football, we were having an undefeated season but one game we were playing against the bulldogs and I remember this because it was hurting. We were losing and everybody was walking around with their heads down showing signs of defeat, I remember our coach pulling us up and he says “If there is one thing that I want you to learn from me is this whenever you stop having fun you already loss the game.” And when he said that it hit me even as a 13 year old because I felt like he was talking more about life than he was about football. And I recognize this when Leah first got diagnosed with cancer because I never left her bedside for 2 weeks when she first got diagnosed, one day I decided to leave and go back to my girlfriend’s house and just get my mind right, I was sitting on a coach her roommate had a bunch of other people in the house and somebody told a joke and the whole room burst out in laughter and I started laughing and within 5 seconds my brain to stop laughing. But then I thought about that lesson that my little league coach taught me and I said ‘If I allow myself to keep the same mentality there’s no way in hell that my daughter is gonna beat this disease, I’m gonna have fun regardless of the circumstances.’ That’s why people saw me posting videos of us dancing when she didn’t have no hair. I wanted to show her that we were gonna have fun regardless of what we’re going through.
The last one would be to fight for 4 quarters or overtime if you have to because I went through so much leading up to my career in NFL. 3 surgeries before I made it to the NFL 5 major injuries before I made it to the NFL and 2 more once I got to the NFL. But the reason why I made it to the NFL is because I continue to fight despite what I was facing, even with Leah battling cancer. I talked about how we almost lost her again a couple of months later when she was diagnosed with VOD, which is a disease from the liver high dosage chemo, it damage a lot of nerves from her liver and a lot of kids pass away from that. But when that happened I told Leah this is the definition of overtime. So right now we have to do everything that we did the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quarter and do it at overtime because it’s the people that are able to outlast the pain that they were going through eventually win the game. So people need to, when they have a dream for themselves, if you see this dream to yourself that you’re gonna fight for 4 quarters and overtime if you have to and you can’t win the game of life from playing from the sideline. You can’t wait for other people to come and win this game for you, you have to have the courage to get off the sideline and get back to the game.
Lewis: I want to acknowledge you for a moment because I can only imagine what it’d be like to be a father. First of being a father and the stress of having kids but then and the joys but also the challenges of being a father going through your own emotional struggles and the physical struggles of your daughter and what that would be like. So, I want to acknowledge you for staying in the game of yourself, you know allowing yourself to work through the emotions, the challenges, the adversity and keep loving yourself and loving your daughter the way you do. It’s been a big inspiration for so many people around the world and to do it with fun, I think it’s really important that you said that, not many people there 3 truths is fun. It’s something I live by it’s hard to manifest your dreams when you’re just serious all the time, you can have fun and still be focus, you don’t need to be serious and stress and I think it’s important to remember that we’re here we don’t know when it’s going to be over. I acknowledge you for everything and I am proud of everything you are up to. And the final question is what is your definition of greatness?
Devon: For me I think my definition of greatness is living in your truth. Not living your life based on what other people think you should live your life like not doing things based on what other people tell you possible. Greatness is dedicating yourself to life purpose and doing everything you can to make that come true.
Lewis: Thank you brother.
And there you have it my friends I hope you enjoyed this episode.
A big thank you to our sponsors today trip actions. Now, go to tripactions.com/greatness you complete a 30 minute demo with trip actions account executive and you’re gonna get a $100 Amazon gift card but only for this month so make sure to go to tripactions.com/greatness.
Also if you got a bunch of credit card check out lending club. I wish I had this back in 2008 when I was living off 3 credit cards because you can consolidate your debt and pay off your credit card with one fix monthly payment. Go to lendingclub.com/greatness
And big thank you to organifi gold. Make sure to check out organifi gold at organifi.com use Lewis code at checkout to get 20% off your order.
Again a big thank you to our sponsors and if you enjoyed this make sure to share this with your friends. Remember no matter what you face in life you may feel like something has ended but it’s just bending and guiding into the right path and as Joseph Campbell said “We must let go of the life we have planned so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” I love you all so very much and you know what time it is, it’s time to go out there and do something great.