West Virginia football DL Stills looking to not be overlooked any longer
Darius Stills is used to be overlooked. To date, his experiences on the football field have practically been molded by it.
A three-year starter and two-time all-state selection just down the road at Fairmont High School, the defensive lineman often found himself in the shadow cast by his younger brother Dante.
That’s because the younger Stills was already collecting major scholarship offers as a sophomore in high school while Darius didn’t receive one until the summer before his senior year. Despite being the bigger brother, Darius was not gifted the same frame as Dante despite his excellent motor on the field.
Even home-state West Virginia offered Dante but didn’t pull the trigger on Darius following a prospect camp in Morgantown that both attended.
“You offered my brother in front of my face you didn’t offer me,” Stills recalls.
At first it was admittedly irritating being the older brother and not seeing the attention but he soon embraced the role and used it to light a competitive fire inside of him. He embraced that the road would be more difficult but never once wanted to switch places. He was writing his own story.
So Stills, as he’s come to do over the years, didn’t dwell on things and instead got back to work.
“Instead of getting all sad about it and everything I’ve just put a chip on my shoulder and try to prove everybody wrong,” he said.
Of course a scholarship offer from Rutgers did eventually find him after yet another camp performance and he committed to the program. That was where he expected to spend his college career until the unexpected happened from a place near and dear to his heart.
A few days later, the Mountaineers gave him the opportunity he had dreamt of his entire life by also extending an offer which he would accept. Admittedly backing away from Rutgers, the school to first offer him, is what Stills refers to as the hardest thing he’s ever had to do.
Ultimately, the draw of staying close to home and playing at the school his father Gary suited up at was too much to pass up. It had been something that Stills had hoped for since an early age.
Still, the work was just beginning.
Stills made the most of the opportunity and saw the field as a true freshman before taking things ever further and playing over 300 snaps as a sophomore last year. Still, that chip on his shoulder continued to grow as some doubted what he could do at the college level.
Some would be happy with what they had accomplished, but Stills felt differently.
“Haven’t proved it yet. I feel like I haven’t done anything yet,” he said. “I personally don’t feel like I’ve achieved my goals yet. I’ve done a lot compared to other people but I feel like I haven’t lived up to my own potential yet and I’m working on that.”
So he did what he does best.
Stills changed his body dropping around 15-pounds to become faster and stronger making the move from the zero to the one technique in the new defense brought over by coordinator Vic Koenning.
“I think I’ve improved everywhere. I’m kind of tired of people believing I can’t do what other people can because of where I’m from or whatever,” he said.
His younger brother Dante would also eventually follow him to Morgantown after a high-profile recruitment and has seen things from the other side of the coin. He understands all too well that being doubted has been a fuel for Darius since an early age.
“He’s been overlooked his whole life for no reason and I feel like he has something to prove,” he said. “And he will prove it.”
Stills is now one of the most experienced defensive linemen returning for West Virginia this fall and while there are still some doubters out there, none of those are in the locker room with him. The junior has become a centerpiece to what the program wants to do on the defensive line this fall.
The new scheme, which asks for linemen to attack, is more of a fit for what Stills brings to the table and he has focused on his hands and getting off the ball. The scheme asks for linemen to be more aggressive and move around showcasing athleticism up front.
Stills hopes to step out of any shadows this fall and become a force for the Mountaineers up front. Those close to him certainly aren’t doubting him.
“He’s one of the fastest d-linemen on our team, strongest d-linemen on our team, most athletic – I cannot see him not on the field,” his younger brother Dante said. “I know how hard he’s going to go.”
His position coach Jordan Lesley believes that in order to be an effective defensive lineman having a chip on your shoulder is a almost a necessity.
"He's like a lot of 6-foot-1 guys. I hope he does have that chip," he said.
The in-state native has come a long way since being overlooked in high school but realizes that there is still a lot of work left to be done if he wants to continue to change perceptions.
“The best revenge is proving somebody wrong. That’s just how I operate every day,” he said.
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