Spending just a little bit of time around Darius Stills will show that he lives with a chip on his shoulder. Heading into his third season with the Mountaineers, the junior defensive lineman says he has something to prove on the football field as he steps into a leading role.
“I’m kind of tired of people believing that I can’t do what other people can just because of where I’m from and whatever,” said Stills, who hails from Fairmont, West Virginia. “But I’ve grown into the leadership role and feel like I am a big part of how this team goes this season and the coaches have told me that too, so I feel like if I step it up, everybody else will then too.”
Coming out of Fairmont Senior High as the son of former Mountaineer and NFL linebacker Gary Stills, Darius was touted as a three-star recruit and received scholarship offers from Akron, Rutgers, Appalachian State and UMass, as well as West Virginia — a choice platter many high school football players would love to have. Many college scouts, however, had their eyes on his younger brother Dante — a four-star defensive end who received offers from the likes of Georgia, Florida, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and others.
Darius could have accepted that lesser spotlight and moved on, but he chose not to. Instead, he used it to fuel his play on the field.
“Growing up with a younger brother that has had more attention than I have, at first it was kind of irritating,” Darius explained. “But then again, it’s like, okay, I’d rather be me than Dante because I feel as the older brother the pressure should be more on my shoulders than anybody else’s like my family…and instead of just getting sad about it, I’ve put a chip on my shoulder and tried to prove everybody wrong.”
Dante, who is now a sophomore on the same defensive line, corroborates his brother’s mindset.
“He’s [been] overlooked his whole life for no reason,” Dante said. “I feel like he has something to prove, and I feel like he will prove it.”
Now a junior, Darius is tasked with being one of the veteran voices on the Mountaineer defense. Before he gets to that point, defensive line coach Jordan Lesley says he needs to tap more into his potential.
“I’m really, really excited about Darius,” Coach Lesley said. “I don’t think he’s tapped half of what the player he can be, and he’s getting there. He’s getting there quick.”
For now, Darius is fighting for a starting role on the defensive line, a spot which Lesley says is his for the taking.
“Over the next couple weeks, he’s gotta take the role of starter if that’s what he wants to be.” Lesley said. “….I know that’s what he wants to be. That’s the guy he wants to be on this football team. He’s gotta accept that role.”
Essentially, Lesley says, Darius needs to be a guy who can be relied on to stay in the game. Before he gets there, he has some work to do.
As for his progress, Dante says that his brother has improved “everywhere” in his game, and he’s now physically one of the best defensive linemen on the squad. For Darius, though, those are just words — as he needs to show it on the field.
“I haven’t proved it yet. I feel like I haven’t done nothing yet,” Darius said. “Been working really hard this year, Dante and I, and we’re going to shock a lot of people this year.”