Stills brothers thrust in pre-season spotlight

WVU’s Stills brothers, Darius (56) and Dante (55), celebrate after sacking Oklahoma State’s quarterback during a game from the 2019 season.

MORGANTOWN — It was only a single Tweet in the endless storm of information, insanity and inanity that makes the site that is Twitter everything to everyone.

But it caught the eye, coming from a trademarked group that calls itself College Football Rankings which sends out rankings in the sport on all things that can be ranked.

The Tweet that caught the eye, though, listed the five best defensive players in the Big 12 for what more and more appears to be this coming season. When it will come and in what shape or form it will be played remains unclear, but what is certain is that the powers that be in the sport are determined to have a season.

This is how College Football Rankings listed their top returning Big 12 defensive tackles.

1) Dante Stills 2) Darius Stills 3) Corey Bethley 4) Jalen Redmond 5) Cameron Murray

We have highlighted the two that are of interest in this eastern outpost of the Big 12 and set off a bell ringing in one’s head, for not only are they both off a West Virginia team that is rebuilding and expect a big part of the foundation will grow out of the play of the Stills Brothers.

Being from the area and the sons of a former All-Big East linebacker, Gary Stills, who went on to play nine NFL seasons, their names grew as they built storied high school careers at Fairmont Senior, earning much national recruiting interest.

But they stayed at home and, obviously, considering this ranking, have made the transition from small state high school heroes to big time football stars.

While much has been written and said about the fact that they are brothers and that they built their foundation playing backyard football, what we’ve brushed over is whether or not is common for brothers — or sisters, for that matter — to reach such heights in athletics, especially when they come from a father who was also of star status.

Think of it for moment — brothers and sisters who have made it to the top.

Perhaps we should offer our own list here of the best in this category, beginning with the brothers Manning, Peyton and Eli, the sons of former Mississippi and NFL star Archie Manning, a two-time Pro Bowler saw his offspring surpass his passing accomplishments.

Here is a multisport look at some of the best, numbered not from best to worst, but to show that those blessed with the best genes have a huge head start on the mere mortals who buy tickets or watch on TV with a six-pack of beer and plates full of hot dogs, hamburgers and pepperoni rolls in front of them:

The Manning brothers, Serena and Venus Williams, Pittsburgh’s Waner brothers, Big Poison and Little Poison’ the DiMaggio clan of Joe, Vince and Dominic; the Alou brothers, Felipe, Matty and Jesus; J.J. Derek and T.J. Watts, Sterling and Shannon Sharp, Clay and Bruce Matthews, Sam “Bam” and Randall Cunningham, George and Ken Brett, Phil and Joe Niekro.

Darius and Dante Stills are the best brother act to hit the Big 12 since Lucious, Dewey and Lee Roy Selmon from another era in Oklahoma football.

And the list goes on.

Reaching the ultimate — the Hall of Fame — by both brothers is a true rarity. Al and Dick McGuire are the only NBA players to do so, the NHL has Maurice and Henri Richard and Phil and Tony Esposito while the only baseball playing brothers were the Waners of Pirates’ fame.

The Stills, of course, are just starting down that road and as we all know the road to greatness is filled with landmines that alter the course of history, but they bring the right credentials, which include talent, desire and attitude.

In some ways, you believe it might be ordained that they eventually wind up together in the NFL, for they are not only close as brothers but they also are competitive, pushing each other.

A story in “The Athletic” last winter noted that their mom, Janeen Floyd, caught 2-year-old Darius trying to change Dante’s diaper and that when they were old enough for separate rooms, Dante snuck into Darius’ room to sleep with him.

They admire each other and sap into the energy each has.

“We feed off each other,” Darius said. “He makes me right and I make him right.”

“It’s kind of like me and him know what we’re going to do and how we’re going to play,” is the way Dante put it last season. “We’ve been together since high school. Sometimes during games I don’t even pay attention when he’s out there. Darius is a dog. He’s an animal. He has that mentality of ‘I’m going to run through you.’ He won’t let up.

In other words, they are their brother’s keeper … and they also are their brother’s keeper upper.

This is Darius’ final year after a brief flirtation with the NFL after making first team All-Big 12 last season. In 12 games he recorded 47 tackles, including 24 solo tackles while forcing a fumbler and breaking up a pair of passes.

He was everywhere, but mostly in the quarterbacks face with five quarterback hurries and seven sacks that tied him for the team lead with – who else – Dante.

Dante had an inconsistent season last year, according to the Mountaineer coaching staff which has set his goal this year of being the same player every day, preferably the one who was a second team All-Big 12 selection.

With last year under his belt, they fully expect him to meet those expectations.

“His effort has been OK,” head coach Neal Brown said of Dante Stills. “I think he can strain and play at a higher level. Dante’s got a lot of talent and you’re starting to see that. He has made a ton of big plays. He has probably made more big plays for us defensively than any other player on that side of the ball. We’re just pushing him to be his best all the time.”

If he does, they both may be off to the NFL next season.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel

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