Be proud of your scars. They’re signs that you survived whatever tried to break you.
For Devon Still, life has been a journey from one scar to the next. From one challenge to the next. His is a story of pushing through pain and overcoming obstacles of all shapes and sizes—of choosing to fight for the sake of his family, his community, and his faith.
Millions of people around the world have been inspired by Devon’s tireless devotion in helping his daughter, Leah, learn how to “beat up cancer.” But in these pages, Devon takes readers behind the headlines to reveal the deeper story of what prepared him for that fight.
Still in the Game is Devon’s declaration that our challenges reveal our purpose, that our scars make us stronger, and that no loss is too great to stop our comeback!
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
Devon Still is a professional athlete, life coach, motivational speaker, and childhood cancer advocate. Now known as "The Comeback Coach," Devon launched his company, Still in the Game, to teach people all over the globe his winning playbook on how to come back from life's biggest challenges.
Mark Dagostino is a New York Times best-selling coauthor and one of the most respected celebrity journalists in America. For ten years he served on staff in New York and LA as a correspondent, columnist, and senior writer for People magazine, interviewing personalities such as Michael J. Fox, Christopher Reeve, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Lopez, and Donald Trump.
Read an Excerpt
Playing basketball with my dad is the most prominent memory I have of my early years, right up until the third grade.
My parents, along with me, my older brother, Tony, and our baby sister, Shaquara, all lived in a white brick, two- story duplex in a place called Cambridge — an affordable housing community on the outskirts of Wilmington, Delaware. That spot up on a hill overlooking the Delaware River was a pretty good place for a kid like me to grow up in the early 1990s. We lived on Kynlyn Drive, and there were patches of grass in between all the brick buildings with plenty of space to get outside and play. There were lots of kids in the neighborhood looking to play every day. It was fun.
When it came to basketball, though, my dad never went easy on us. Not even once. We'd walk up the alleyway to the court when I was six, seven, eight years old, and my big brother and I would take turns squaring off one- on- one against our father. He's six- feet- two-inches tall. We were little kids. Yet he'd whoop us every time. No mercy.
"C'mon now, Devon, take the shot. Take the shot!" he'd say.
I'd take one more dribble, go to plant my feet, and he'd shoulder in, steal the ball, turn around, and toss up a perfect jump shot. Swoosh. The man was good at the game, and it was right there on that raggedy old concrete basketball court with my dad where I first fell in love with the sport. With any sport, for that matter.
Basketball was my father's passion, and he wanted us to be passionate too.
"You're not gonna get any better if I go easy on you now, are you?" he'd ask with a big smile on his face.
"Someday I'll beat you," I'd holler back at him, in the most serious voice I could make. "You just wait. I'm gonna be big as you and tall as you and you're goin' down!"
"That's what I'm talkin' about!" my dad would say, laughing as he tossed the ball out to me, then stole it again before going in for the game- winning layup. "Alright, we'd better get inside before dinner's on the table, or you know your mom will be mad."
Tony and I were lucky enough to have bikes as kids, too, and when the weather was good, those bikes were just about all we needed to entertain ourselves all day long. We used to see BMX riders on TV, and we'd pretend to be just like them on those patches of grass between the sidewalks. We'd get busy building ramps and jumps out of old milk crates and pieces of wood we'd find piled against the fences behind the buildings. I still remember the rush of getting up on a little embankment, perching that bike on the edge, then pedaling hard as I could 'til I hit that ramp and flew through the air. I imagined I was taking some great big leap, when in reality I was probably only clearing a foot or so before landing back down on the pavement. It sure felt amazing to catch some air, though.
We didn't wear helmets, of course. Nobody did. Sometimes it's a wonder we're still alive. I remember one time Tony didn't pedal fast enough and instead of flying up into the air when he hit the top of the ramp, his front wheel fell straight down. The back of the bike flipped up, and he nosedived into the ground. He started crying and my mom came running out of the house yelling, "I told you this was gonna happen!" even as she hugged him, wiped the dirt from his face and took him inside to put a Band- Aid on his chin.
My mom was always cleaning up after my brother and me. Whether we were making a mess of our knees and elbows (and chins) or tearing up the apartment, she was always there to put everything back in place. She liked to keep a neat house too. I don't think she'd be bothered if I said she was obsessive about it. She was so proud of how nice she kept the place, she didn't even bother giving my dad or us boys a list of chores to do, mainly because she knew we wouldn't clean things up as good as she wanted. She was much happier if we stayed out on the basketball court and out of the way while she cleaned and cooked.
Mom would be cleaning around my dad while he watched football on Sundays too. He was almost as passionate about watching football on Sundays as he was about playing basketball. It drove us nuts sometimes, the way that TV would stay on all day with game after game. It felt like we couldn't drag him away from the TV no matter what we did. In fact, I resented the fact that football existed because it took so much of my dad's attention on all those Sundays when we could have been out playing basketball.
I suppose if that's all I had to complain about as a kid, I was living a pretty good life.
* * *
My mom and dad are my heroes, but if you asked my mom she would say: "We didn't do nothing special. We did everything like every other parent out there is doing, raising their kids, teaching them right, doing what they are supposed to do."
My mom, Melissa, who most people call Missy, was raised with a strong family background. Her grandparents were a big part of her life and helped to raise her all the way up to high school. That may sound funny to think about, having your grandparents there every day, but it wasn't uncommon in those days. There were a lot of young mothers in the '60s and '70s, and families would stay close out of choice but also necessity. Her grandparents took her and her sisters to church every Sunday, and "living right" and "doing right" was a big part of daily life.
When her own mother's marriage ended unexpectedly in divorce, my mom was only seven. It was just assumed that everyone had to pitch in to help while her mom worked from six in the morning until seven at night after that, which meant my mom's job from that moment on was to take care of her two younger sisters. It was the "right" thing to do — but the cost was her education. My mom didn't complain, though. Everyone in her family knew hard work, and they did it with grace. Mom could have been bitter or angry at her own dad or at her own mom, but she wasn't. She watched her mom work long hard hours to make sure that they had a house and food to eat, and she was grateful.
"Families work together," she always told me. "They do what's needed for each other."
After a few years of taking care of her sisters and then working to help out, though, she realized what her dedication had cost her. She decided that no matter what, if she ever had children, she would see to it that they got a good education.
My dad, Antonio, was also raised by a single mom. His mom loved him very much, but he barely knew his own father. "He just wasn't around," he told us. He had seen him a few times. His father took him to see a Bruce Lee movie once or twice. But when his father died during his senior year of high school, two days after my dad's birthday, my dad didn't even know how to feel. It was at that moment he decided that if something ever happened to him, he didn't want his own children to feel that way. He decided to do the opposite of what his father had done. He made a decision to always be there for his kids. He would know them and support them and help them succeed in life.
My mom and dad met in high school, when she was in tenth grade and he was a senior, but they didn't start dating until after he'd gone off to Benedict College for half a semester. He came back to town after his dream of making it as a basketball player didn't pan out the way he'd hoped, and that summer they happened to run into each other on the way to the local Pathmark grocery store. They started hanging out a lot after that, and by the time my dad was twenty-one, they were starting a family.
Given their backgrounds, I guess it's no wonder both of my parents wanted their kids to be disciplined. They insisted that we do the "right thing" and "live right." My mom's mom even dragged us off to church most Sundays, just like my mom's grandmother had done every Sunday in her life. We resisted at the time, but I suppose the lessons we learned on those Sundays became the seeds of faith that would grow later in life.
My brother Tony and I were actually born up in Camden, New Jersey, which, if you don't know Camden, I think it's safe to say it was a really rough town. For years it was ranked as the deadliest city in America. The only reason I didn't grow up in that violent environment is because when I was two years old, our house in Camden burned down. No one got hurt, but my parents lost everything. My brother and I don't have any baby pictures because they all got burned up in that fire. And yet, that fire was the reason we moved someplace a little safer.
My mom heard there were lots of job opportunities down in Delaware, and the city of Wilmington had affordable housing in what seemed like some pretty nice neighborhoods. So that's where we up and went.
Wilmington was a rough town too. It just wasn't quite as rough as Camden, or at least it wasn't back then. In the 1980s, Wilmington had become a major banking hub. Look on your credit card statements. Chances are that's where you're sending your monthly payments. But the profits from those big banks didn't spread out into the community. In fact, by the early '90s more and more neighborhoods in Wilmington fell victim to drugs and violence, not unlike what happened in a lot of big cities during and after the so-called "boom times." Even so, for my parents, Wilmington seemed like a big step up. A place to rebuild. A place to start fresh.
For me? It was the only life I knew. I don't remember life in Camden. I remember life on Kynlyn Drive, with a dad who loved playing basketball with me and my brother, and a mom who showed her love in every corner of our neat and comfortable little home. We were too young to know what was going on after dark. I was too young to fully comprehend just how rough this city was just a few blocks south of where we rode our bikes every day. My parents did their best to shelter us from all of that for as long as they could. They sheltered us from a lot of things.
I loved my life. I loved my parents. I loved my brother and my baby sister, Shaquara, who was born six years after me. I loved having so many friends around all the time. In fact, if things had stayed just like that for the rest of my life, I think would have been perfectly happy.
But sometimes the things you don't see can sneak up on you.
* * *
One night, right in the middle of my third- grade year, my parents got into a huge fight. Tony and I stayed behind our bedroom door while the fight played out, but that apartment was small, and we couldn't help but overhear them. My mom kept yelling something about him always being out too late. Then my dad was yelling something about something my mom did. At one point my dad took his watch and threw it out the door. My brother and I both thought his watch was cool, so we ran out into the grass and looked for it but never found it. Inside, the fighting continued. Something about money. Something about where my dad was always going off to. And then sometime late that night, my mom grabbed my baby sister and left. She just left.
In the morning my dad said, "I don't know, boys. I don't think she's coming back. I think your mom and I are getting a divorce."
I laid on the couch in our living room and cried all that day, just wishing and praying for my mom to come back. But with every passing hour it became clear that she wasn't going to.
I had always thought my parents got along. I was sure they loved each other. I didn't understand what was happening. It wouldn't be 'til I was a whole lot older that I'd have any idea about the grown- up problems they had — the money issues, my dad's gambling, my mom's suspicions and retaliations, the relationship problems that had quietly torn them apart while my brother and sister and I were busy playing or sleeping.
I know now that both of my parents had strong commitments to what they wanted to do and be for their own children, but unfortunately they had few examples of how a wife and husband make it work over the long term. Times being what they were and lacking in higher education, they lived day to day and they struggled to provide for us. We didn't know that then. We always had lights and food. It might not have been the food we wanted, but there was always something in the house. Part of mom's idea of living right was making sure us kids wouldn't see the things that they were dealing with as grown- ups. They both tried hard to keep normalcy in the household, so we had no idea how hard things were for them.
So to me, to us kids, it all came out of nowhere.
One night, one argument, and our whole world changed.
A few days later, I overheard my dad on the phone talking about a tax refund and something about losing the apartment. My dad seemed real worried that we were going to wind up on the street, and he wasn't about to let that happen to his kids. So he tracked down where my mom had moved to — just a few miles away in the suburb of Claymont — and he asked us to pack a few things and he drove us up there in his big old white Buick. He drove around just looking for some sign of her, and when he spotted a kid on a bike delivering newspapers, he pulled over and asked the kid, "Did anybody new just move into this neighborhood?"
"Yeah," the kid said.
"Can you show me where?" my dad asked, and we followed the kid on the bike down the street until he pointed. My dad pulled over in front of a row of apartments that I had never seen before and he got out of the car. He told us to come with him, and we walked up to the door. He knocked and then he told us to stay there as he walked slowly back toward the car. A few seconds later, my mom opened the door.
"Mom!" we both shouted, and she wrapped her arms around us and gave us a big hug. My dad got back in the car and drove away without a word. That was that. From that point forward, my mom said, we would live with her.
We never went back to Kynlyn Drive. Our toys and clothes and things showed up in the next day or so. My dad must have packed everything up and brought it over in the middle of the night or something, because we didn't see him and we weren't sure when we were going to see him again.
I didn't know how to make sense of it all.
Once again, my whole world changed. Just like that, I found myself living in an apartment complex in the suburbs, with my mom taking me down in the morning to enroll me in a brand- new school: a one- story elementary school set off the main road, hidden by a bunch of trees and filled with a whole lot of kids I didn't know. I felt like an outsider on day one, and I could tell by the way some of the other boys were looking at me that there was going to be trouble. I wasn't tall yet, and I certainly wasn't intimidating, but I was bigger than most kids my age. That made me a pretty good target. Sure enough, at the end of the day, a group of about ten of them gathered together in front of the school and kept looking over at me until all I could think was, Run!
Those boys started chasing me, and I was scared. I barely remembered the way to get back to our new apartment, but even at that age I was fast. Faster than the length of my legs or the size of my body would let on. Thankfully I easily outran those boys and made it home.
It turns out those boys weren't going to hurt me. Chasing me down was more of an initiation or something. I would wind up becoming friends with most of them over the course of the second half of that school year. But on that day, I was scared. And I ran into our new apartment all out of breath to find no one home to rescue me.
In order to support us in her new role as a single mom, my mother took two jobs. The first was as an executive assistant at one of the big banks in Wilmington, and the second was in the evening as a cashier at K- Mart. Those afternoons and evenings without a parent home left my brother and me fending for ourselves. We were forced to grow up real fast. And with a whole lot of unsupervised time on our hands, we found trouble.
I was angry about the whole situation, and I let my mom know it. I had never talked back to my mom before, and the first time I did, she yelled at me. She let me know I was wrong. But I wasn't scared of her. I knew she wouldn't lay a hand on me. If I left a toy on the table or something she might yell and throw it at me, but I knew her raised voice would be the end of it. So I didn't back down.
The next time I talked back to her, she called my dad.
In fact, I'm pretty sure the first time I saw my dad after the split was when he came to discipline me for talking back to my mom. I was surprised that he came to her defense, and I didn't even care if he beat me for mouthing off to her. I was just glad to see him.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Still in the Game"
Copyright © 2018 Devon Still.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Pregame 1
Chapter 2 Coin Toss 13
Chapter 3 Kickoff 23
Chapter 4 First Down 35
Chapter 5 Field Goal 49
Chapter 6 Scrambling 61
Chapter 7 Second Half 77
Chapter 8 Safety 80
Chapter 9 Road Games 103
Chapter 10 The Draft 117
Chapter 11 Huddle Up 131
Chapter 12 Blindsided 147
Chapter 13 Special Teams 165
Chapter 14 Interference 175
Chapter 15 Hail Mary 193
Chapter 16 Fourth and Goal 207
Chapter 17 Touchdown 217
Chapter 18 The Championship 223
About the Authors 243