Dante Stills came into last season thinking it could potentially be his final in Morgantown.
“My main goal going into my junior year was pretty much I want to leave. I want to be a three-year guy, I want to be able to be that dude that’s a boss and is able to go three and out,” Stills said.
But plans change, and now the senior defensive lineman is hoping he’s saved his best for last.
Stills, like his brother Darius before him, opted to return for a fourth season at the college level despite having the opportunity to make the jump to pursue a professional career. It’s not a surprising result if you’ve been around the brothers as Darius essentially laid a path for Dante to follow.
Now, being able to have a front-row seat watching his older brother prepare for the draft and go through the process the younger Stills is more motivated than ever.
“I hope I’m in his position one day,” Stills said.
According to PFF, which scouts college football advanced statistics, the younger Stills was the highest graded player on the entire defense as a junior across his 503 snaps at 84.2.
That’s highest player on the entire 2020 unit, not just on the defensive line showcasing how impressive he was to the trained eye. But while he was recognized by scouts for his efforts, Stills only finished with relatively modest overall numbers with 35 tackles and a pair of sacks.
That stuck with him.
“I wasn’t performing as well as I thought. People thought I did well, but my stats weren’t showing it which that’s kind of a big deal. Stats show how much you’re doing throughout the year, so I just felt like I didn’t do it as much as I needed to do to get to that level,” he said.
So, Stills squelched any rumors early into the off-season when Dec. 17 he simply announced that he would see everybody next year on social media. That was it, no fanfare and no attention just a message.
“It’s best for me to stay another year and work so I’m able to be at that level next year,” he said.
West Virginia head coach Neal Brown agreed.
“I think he made the right decision. He made a lot of fundamental strides last year but I think it’s beneficial for him and our program if he comes back his senior year,” he said.
It’s going to be different for Stills as it will be his first in Morgantown without his brother by his side, but it’s something that could ultimately benefit him not only this year but when it comes to his future. That’s because Darius often served as the guy that would motivate Dante, now he’s forced to look at other options in order to accomplish that goal.
In a roundabout way, it’s forced Stills into becoming more of a leader which he’s embraced. Afterall, who doesn’t want to be a leader?
“You have to lead yourself before you can lead others,” Stills said. “I have to make sure I’m doing the right things on the field, doing techniques right and making sure the guys behind me copy that.”
Stills has embraced moving around the defense at various spots throughout the spring from the five technique all the way to the zero. That way he will know all of those spots moving forward.
The former four-star prospect has certainly lived up to his billing in Morgantown so far, but the Mountaineers are hoping that his final year takes the same path as his brother’s did before him.