MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Pretty soon, Country Roads will take Darius Stills to a new home: the NFL.
But right now, the Big 12’s Defensive Lineman of the Year is focused on the AutoZone Liberty Bowl — his final game as a Mountaineer.
“It’s emotional, but at the same time, I know I’ve got some more football to play, so it’s not really hitting me as hard as it would if I didn’t,” Stills said.
What is hitting him is something even more sentimental: after playing football for years alongside his brother, Dante, their final game on the same team has likely arrived.
“It’s just kind of crazy — it’s like mine and Dante’s last game,” Darius said. “I think of it not so much as my last college game, but as my last game with Dante — like guaranteed game. It’s emotional, but we’re going out with a bang, so I’m excited.”
The family ties for the Stills brothers at WVU are well-documented. They’ve lined up next to each other in gold and blue for the past three seasons, and before their father Gary made it to the NFL, he, too, played his college ball in Morgantown.
These days, athletes like Darius who are also bound for the NFL often opt out of bowl games to begin focusing on the next steps in their careers. But to him, that was never an option.
“I respect everybody’s decisions regardless, because I don’t know what situations they have or what goes into it, but for me, individually, I have one more game left to play with my brother, guaranteed, so I’m gonna do it,” Stills said. “And I’m gonna have fun.”
Stills has had quite the run in this final month of 2020. After earning a spot on the All-Big 12 first team for the second year in a row, he has picked up first team All-America honors from a slew of organizations, including prestigious nods from the Associated Press and Sporting News.
All of these accolades that have become a reality may have seemed like a fantasy just four years ago, when Stills barely cracked the list of the state’s top five recruits in the class of 2017, according to 247Sports.
Stills has used experiences from his youth to motivate him during his collegiate career. His sack celebration — a shrug after a stop in the backfield — was an ode to coaches who didn’t give him an offer because they doubted his potential.
Even fellow recruits at football camps doubted him because of where he grew up. Stills recounts that other athletes didn’t expect top talent to hail from West Virginia.
But head coach Neal Brown believes Stills’ career in gold and blue speaks for itself — there are Division I caliber players in the Mountain State, and they can find success at WVU.
“To me, I think it’s a great point for all these guys, young men, boys, that are playing football, whether they’re my son’s age at 5 playing flag football all the way up to the guys playing high school football in this state,” Brown said. “You always want somebody that proves before you that’s done it. And there you are: Darius Stills is from Fairmont, and he’s playing at an extremely high level.”
Stills said he’ll begin preparing for the NFL Draft shortly after the bowl game. He’ll spend the next several months getting his body and mind ready for his next adventure.
When he does hear his name called in the spring, you better believe he’ll keep playing with that same mentality he developed as a high school recruit — one that helped him become an All-American at WVU.
He’ll always have something to prove — and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Ever since then, I’ve just believed in that, and I’m proof that there are ballers here, you just gotta find them,” Stills said. “Because we’re not from Florida, Texas, California, doesn’t mean we can’t play ball. We got Randy Moss, a hall of famer, coming out of West Virginia, Ryan Switzer. We have a lot of people. I want to be that person that they name. That’s my dream.”