Still says his daughter Leah, 8, taught him was "true strength" is

By Joelle Goldstein Claudia Harmata
March 22, 2019 05:00 PM
Erik Williams/CSM/REX/Shutterstock

Devon Still has no regrets about leaving his professional football career behind — in fact, he’s never made an easier decision.

“Walking away from football was one of the easiest things that I ever did,” the former defensive end tells PEOPLE in a new interview.

Still officially retired from his football career in 2017, having played for the Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans and New York Jets after being drafted by the Bengals in 2012.

Still tells PEOPLE his mindset going into the NFL helped keep him grounded, ultimately helping him make the choice to leave.

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“I learned something huge before I made it to the NFL that prepared me for that moment,” Still explains. “Before I got drafted, I remember … if you don’t know who you are before the money and fame comes in, you’ll never know who you are.”

Devon Still/Instagram

“I made sure that I knew who I was as a man and what my values were before I made it to the NFL so that was never put into question. So, when my daughter was diagnosed with cancer, I already knew my faith and family came before football,” he adds.

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Two years into his NFL career in 2014, Still’s daughter, Leah, now 8, was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma — a cancer that starts in the adrenal glands. In 2015, Still announced that his daughter’s cancer was in remission, and it remains in remission today with her 4-year anniversary approaching on March 25.

Watching his daughter battle cancer and joining her in recovery from his own injuries from football helped make his decision even simpler.

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“The bigger lesson that I learned from Leah is, strength is not what you can do in the weight room or what you can do on the football field – but what you’re really willing to endure, or what you’re willing to sacrifice in order to get what you want out of life,” he tells PEOPLE. “Leah proved that to me, and she shifted my mindset on what true strength really is.”

Now, Still devotes his time to continuing the fight against cancer with his foundation, the Still Strong Foundation and by supporting other organizations as well, Sports Illustrated reported.

And Still is about to become a dad for the second time — he and his wife Asha are expecting their first child together, they confirmed to PEOPLE.