CHARLESTON - Most football-playing families are lucky to land one member at a Division I school, but the Stills aren't like most families.
First there was the father, Gary Stills, who was an All-Big East performer during his time at West Virginia University in the 1990s, prior to a lengthy career in the National Football League. He saw stops with the Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens and St. Louis Rams. Now for WVU, there are the sons. Defensive linemen Darius and Dante Stills have both been on campus in Morgantown for a few years now, but 2019 is the season the Mountaineers need them to step into more prominent roles.
Both of the brothers were high school standouts in West Virginia at Fairmont Senior High, and both received plenty of attention in recruiting. Dante, the younger of the Stills brothers by one year, was one of the top defensive line recruits in the country his senior year while Darius had his options, but not like his younger brother.
Darius said at first, all he wanted was to get as far away from home as possible for college. Once he began to get closer to high school graduation, however, he softened his stance on that.
"During the recruitment process, I always thought I wanted to get as far away from home as possible," Darius Stills said.
"Then once it get close to the end, you think about all the benefits and non-benefits of leaving, but it's your home. If you need something, I can go home or my mom can come up here. It's great."
So with Darius in the fold, WVU turned up the heat on its recruitment of younger brother Dante. Of course, it worked out to where both of the Stills brothers ended up in Morgantown, and perhaps nobody was happier about that than older brother Darius.
"It's very fun [playing football with your brother]," Darius Stills said. "You have another one of you out there, so you get that much more comfortable. My freshman year I was out there by myself and it just didn't feel the same, so when Dante came up my sophomore year and his freshman year, it felt like I had my family back and my other half back."
This season will be one marked by change for West Virginia, with it being the first year for head coach Neal Brown and his staff with the Mountaineers. Part of that change will be a new defensive scheme. The previous staff primarily used a three-man defensive line, but the new one likes to play with four players along the front. That means the Stills brothers - both listed as defensive tackles - have a much better chance to actually get on the field at the same time now.
"They're growing, maturing," WVU defensive line coach Jordan Lesley said. "I guess that's probably the biggest thing with both of them, and they've come a long way since January - a long way. They like being on the field at the same time. They have, to be honest, two totally different skill sets. It works out well for what we like to do."
Dante Stills appeared in 12 games in 2018 as a freshman for WVU, totaling 16 tackles (13 solo) and three sacks. Darius Stills has played in 21 games during his two years at WVU with a total of 13 tackles and one sack, which came in last season's Camping World Bowl against Syracuse. Both of the brothers are right around or slightly under 300 pounds, with Dante listed at 6-foot-3 and Darius at 6-foot-1.
This offesason, both Darius and Dante Stills said a primary focus was on hitting the weight room and getting stronger.
"I feel like I got a lot stronger," Dante Stills said. "I work out with [offensive linemen] Colton [McKivitz], Josh [Sills] and [defensive lineman] Reese [Donahue] - especially Reese will be really pushing me. I'm like next in line. He's a senior, I'm a sophomore. He's the guy who pushes me, and my brother also. Darius pushes me all day, every day."
Dante said he has seen drastic improvement from his older brother this offseason leading into preseason camp.
"He has improved dramatically," Dante Stills said. "He's been overlooked his whole life, for no reason. I feel like he has something to prove and I feel like he will prove it. He's one of the fastest D-linemen on our team, one of the strongest D-linemen on our team, he's just as athletic. You can't not see him on the field. Darius is going to make a lot of plays, a lot of sacks - stuff like that."
Lesley agreed, but added that while Darius Stills has all the tools to be a successful Big 12 defensive lineman, the time for him to step up and establish himself is now.
"The thing with Darius is over the next couple of weeks he has got to take the role of starter," Lesley said. "If that's what he wants to be - I know that's what he wants to be and that's the guy he wants to be on this football team - he's got to accept that role. He has got to be a guy who won't let me pull him out of the game. He's getting there, but he's got work to do."