Dante Stills had no intention of playing in the 2021 Blue-Gold game.
So, will fans who show up to watch West Virginia University’s spring football game at 1 p.m. Saturday in Milan Puskar Stadium at Mountaineer Field in Morgantown actually get to watch the 6-foot-4, 280-pound junior defensive tackle perform?
But, in truth, it wasn’t Stills’ first choice. It wasn’t the Fairmont native’s plan. He had other ideas in mind.
“My main goal coming into my junior year was pretty much I wanted to leave,” said Stills during a spring Zoom meeting. “I wanted to be that three-years-and-out guy. I wanted to be that dude that is a boss. That dude that I would be able to go three-and-out.”
Stills wanted to leave with his older brother, Darius. The premise is easy to understand. The Stills brothers are only one year apart age-wise. So, since Darius declared for the upcoming 2021 NFL draft, Dante wanted to join him.
The Stills brothers are just that close.
The problem was Darius’ 2020 resume was much more impressive than Dante’s. The 6-foot-1, 279-pound senior finished the season with 12 solo tackles and 13 assists for a total of 25 stops. Stills had 7.5 tackles for loss including 3.5 sacks totaling 22 yards in losses and actually intercepted a pass.
That led to the elder Stills being voted Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and first-team All-American.
That’s why he is NFL-bound while younger brother Dante is still suited up in blue and gold.
“Throughout the season I wasn’t performing at the level I thought I would,” said the younger Stills, showing uncommon self-awareness. “People thought I did good, but my stats weren’t showing it. Which that is kind of a big deal. I mean, stats are how much you are doing throughout the year.”
The handwriting was on the wall.
Darius needed to step up while Dante needed to stay put.
“I just feel I didn’t do as much as I needed to do,” said the younger Stills, “to be at that level that Darius was at. That’s kind of just how I thought. I was like, it’s best for me to stay another year. And work and work and work, so I’m able to be at that level next year.”
Give Dante credit for realizing his limitations. Not to mention being smart enough to come back for another season, so he could fix those weaknesses.
Not that the younger Stills had a poor season in 2020. He most certainly didn’t. Dante Stills, who is bigger and taller than Darius at 6-4, 280 pounds, had 15 solo tackles and 20 assists for a total of 35 stops last season. He also had 10.5 tackles for loss including 2.0 sacks, two pass breakups, one quarterback hurry, one fumble recovery and one blocked kick.
Yet third-year WVU head coach Neal Brown agrees that another year of seasoning is best for Dante Stills.
“I think he made the right decision,” said Brown. “He made a lot of fundamental strides last year. I think it’s beneficial for both he and for our program to come back his senior year.
“He had a great off-season. He’s in a different mindset. He’s maturing. I fully expect him to have a big-time senior year and put himself in a position that is significantly better than it would have been if he was in this draft class.”
So, it appears Dante Stills is doing what’s best.
For himself. For his team. For his fans. And for his future.
That’s why we’ll get to watch him on Saturday.