MORGANTOWN — It was tough for Darius Stills, the older brother, growing up in the shadow of his younger brother, Dante, at Fairmont Senior.
Darius was a skilled player, but Dante, a year younger, was bigger, looked more athletic and made bolder plays.
If there was any one day that hurt, as Darius looks back on it now, it was when Dana Holgorsen offered Dante a full-ride scholarship right in front of him.
And so it was, after he had gone to a camp in the D.C. area to try and get noticed, he landed a Division-I offer from Rutgers.
“Rutgers was the first to offer me,” he said after Thursday’s practice. “They saw me and loved me. I saw a lot of love from them so I committed.”
You understand, he really wanted to play at WVU, but he hadn’t heard from the Mountaineers. This was Big Ten football and taking the offer right away seemed like the right thing to do.
But there was a caveat.
“If West Virginia offers me, I’m going to decommit,” Darius Stills told Rutgers, never thinking he’d ever hear from the Mountaineers.
The six-hour drive home from Rutgers was torturous. He was suffering buyer’s lament, wondering if he’d done the right thing. And it didn’t get any better when he got home and his mother was crying and saying, “Now I won’t be able to see you play.”
But a funny thing happened shortly thereafter.
“A couple of days later, the whole WVU football staff here followed me on Twitter all at one time,” he said. “I was thinking, ‘Oh, something’s up.’”
They also asked him to call when he got a chance.
“I’m sitting there thinking, ‘You waited to just now to call me?’” he said. So he called them and the Mountaineers wasted no time making him an offer.
“I told them ‘I always wanted to be a Mountaineer, but you never offered me. You offered my younger brother right in front of my face, then you offer me?’”
They pressed on.
“I told them, ‘Well, I’m already committed,” he said, knowing full well that he was going to say yes to West Virginia and back out of the commitment at Rutgers.
“It was the hardest thing I ever did,” he said.
The relationship with his brother was an intriguing one.
“When you are growing up with a younger brother who is getting more attention than you, at first it’s irritating, but, then again, I’d rather be me than Dante because the pressure as the older brother is more on my shoulders than anyone else’s in my family.
“It just put a chip on my shoulder. I have something to prove.”
Darius came to West Virginia alone that first year while Dante finished off his high school career and fielded a number of big time offers from around the country, his final three being Oklahoma, Florida and West Virginia.
He opted to stay close to home and join his brother at WVU, knowing once again the spotlight would shine on him more than Darius. It’s something, he says, that is very unfair.
“My brother has improved dramatically, everywhere. He’s been overlooked his whole life, for no reason,” Dante said.
Darius understands and accepts it as a reality.
“Dante knows that if I was a couple of inches taller — excuses, excuses — then I would be having that attention, too. But I’d rather it not be any other way than it is now because the more attention you get, the more weight you have on your shoulders.
“I don’t want to say you have nothing to lose, but I have more to gain. I wouldn’t want it any other way. I haven’t done anything yet.”
Haven’t done anything yet? Darius Stills played as a true freshman, and appeared in nine games while Dante was winning a third straight all-state spot for Class AA state runner-up Fairmont Senior High.
Then, last year, when they were reunited at WVU, Darius played 12 games at nose guard. He made 12 tackles, 3.5 of them for losses and had a sack while sharing time with senior Kenny Bigelow.
But he says he’s nowhere near where he hopes to be.
“I feel I haven’t achieved my goals yet,” he said. “I’ve done a lot compared with other people, but I haven’t lived up to my own potential and I’m working on that.”
What kind of goals does a player with the talent Stills has set?
“Dominate every single play, don’t get blocked. Basically be the best team player I can be for the people here,” he said.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.