FAIRMONT, W.Va. — Saying “you can’t leave family,” four-star defensive end Dante Stills committed to West Virginia on Thursday.
Pledging to select a college in advance of his senior season, Stills did so mere hours before Fairmont Senior’s opening game. During a pep rally inside the school auditorium, he pulled out a WVU cap and tearfully hugged his mother Janeen Floyd.
That’s when his father Gary, a former Mountaineers linebacker who wanted the announcement “to be a surprise,” raced on stage pumping his fists.
“He’s very happy I can go to his alma mater,” Dante said. “I’m 100-percent committed to WVU. It was a stressful decision, but I’m confident in it. I promised myself I wouldn’t decommit.”
One of the elite recruits showcased at The Opening by Nike, Stills stockpiled offers from programs across the SEC, ACC, Big Ten and Big 12, ultimately reducing his pool of finalists to West Virginia, Florida and Oklahoma.
In an interview with Rivals this week, Stills credited the Sooners for winning Big 12 championships and producing NFL prospects, while saying the Gators were “starting to do something special” with a class currently situated among the top 10.
But the lure of playing close to home — and potentially starting as a freshman — clinched the commitment for West Virginia, whose recruiting class promptly jumped from 44th to 30th nationally.
That meant declining an offer from former WVU staffer Ja’Juan Seider, now a first-year Florida assistant, who was a college teammate of Stills’ father during the late ’90s.
“Coach Seider, he’s a great guy. It sucks he had to go down there,” Stills said.
He’s rated the nation’s eighth-best defensive tackle in the 2018 class by Rivals.com, and the No. 146 prospect overall.
At 6-foot-4, 265, Stills is bigger than his father, a rangy linebacker who remains second on West Virginia’s career sacks list with 26.
Stills’ older brother Darius, a three-star recruit who chose the Mountaineers over Rutgers last February, is competing for a spot in the defensive line rotation.
“I’d love to play in the Big 12 with my brother,” Dante said. “I mean, that’s going to be incredible.”
Another family bond factored in heavily. Stills’ mom is a breast cancer survivor who concealed her illness last year while transporting her sons to various college camps.
“I said I wasn’t going to do my radiation until I can get them through the camps,” she said. “I hid it from them, but they could tell something was wrong with me and I had been crying. Darius is a quiet person who holds it all in, but Dante, he was a mess.
“But I knew I was going to be fine. They kept me busy and kept me going good and not depressed or anything.”
In May, Stills told MetroNews he anticipated taking all five official visits, but on Thursday afternoon Stills said he made that comment thinking he could take official visits during the summer, instead of having to wait until fall.
“My whole plan was to be done before the season,” he said. “I’m trying to ball out with my teammates this whole year, so I don’t want to worry about all the recruiting stuff.”
Stills said he plans to sign during the new early signing period in December though he won’t enroll until next summer.