MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — It started 24 years ago when a pass rushing linebacker named Gary Stills came to West Virginia to play football and began making plays you couldn’t believe.
He did it with his quickness, with his strength.
He was 6-2, an athletic 235 pounds, and by the time his three-year career ended he had 159 tackles, 26 of them sacks, which is second only to Canute Curtis’ school record of 35.
The plays he made were mind-boggling … yet, I promise you, he never a play that could match No. 1 son Darius Stills — Dante, by the way, has to be No. 1a in the classification.
The legend of Darius Stills is growing almost by the game. Last week he was running Baylor backs down from behind and putting them on the ground.
And he is not like his father. He’s a nose tackle, one listed at 6-foot-1 and 282 pounds. He’s supposed to make plays with his strength and quickness, but what he did belongs on ESPN’s Top 10 plays tonight … and maybe at the end of the year, too.
Here’s what transpired, Kansas threw a pass that Tykee Smith went up and tipped into the air.. The ball was up for grabs but it seemed no one would get there.
No one but Darius Stills.
On a day when WVU wide receivers were dropping six or seven passes in their hands, Stills laid himself out vertical to the ground, took those two big meat hooks of his and somehow slid them under the ball, just before it fell incomplete, then cradled it to his body as if he were Larry Fitzgerald or Lynn Swann rather than a defensive lineman.
The play was reviewed, for there was a little juggle in there when he hit the ground, but he never lost control of it and held the ball up as he was getting up.
What kind of play was it?
“Shoot, man, you got to take your hat off to him. That’s a playground play. Ninety percent of the people aren’t going to make that play. He laid out like a wide receiver. I was in awe,” Josh Chander-Semedo said.
The skill that went into the play was one thing, but far more important was the effort put forth by Stills. He and his brother, Dante, have set a high bar for the defensive linemen on this Mountaineer team, squeezing every bit of production out of their bodies that they can.
Someone suggested in post-game interview that Stills didn’t seem athletic enough to make that play. Neal Brown disagreed.
“He can bend. He’s got athletic skills. He’s got great lateral movement. It was a heck of a catch. It bounced off Tykee and for him to react to it was impressive.”
But Brown was more impressed with the effort Stills put into the play.
“That’s an effort play,” Brown said. “The only reason that play happens is because he is chasing the ball. If he sits there because it’s a pass, he doesn’t get that interception. That’s going to be the message. That’s going to be one of the plays I show my team in a meeting.”
There were worries coming into the season after the Vic Koenning’s departure as defensive coordinator that the defense might lose some of its oomph. That has not been the case.
In fact, as they took the field on Saturday WVU had the No. 10 defense in the nation.
They have been flying all over the place with players like Tony Fields, Tykee Smith, Josh Chandler-Semedo, the Stills brothers and so many others making big play after big play.
On Saturday they followed up the six-sack game against Baylor with a five-sack game with Jeffrey Pooler and freshman Ahkeem Mesidor getting two each.
Kansas managed only 157 yards in the game, fewer yards than Leddie Brown rushed for in a career day of 195 rushing yards.