Father knows best for Saints rookie receiver Kenny Stills
Kenny Stills, Sr., a former defensive back for the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings, is as proud as any father can be these days.
His son, Kenny Stills, Jr., is continuing in the family business he and his brother, Gary Stills, started in as NFL players -- sort of.
Kenny Stills, Jr., a standout receiver with the Oklahoma Sooners, was taken by the New Orleans Saints in the fifth round of last month's NFL draft. Gary Stills, an ex-linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens, and Kenny Stills, Sr. were both defensive players in the NFL.
That clearly won't be the NFL experience of Kenny Stills, Jr., who long ago took a different, and arguably not as physical, a path, which has sometimes spawned some good-natured teasing from his dad.
"He was playing defense and I think he decided he wanted to score touchdowns instead of hit people. And he's a mamma's boy and that's who plays on offense, those mamma's boys," the elder Stills said as he laughed. "Daddy's boys are on defense."
But a daddy's boy is exactly what Kenny Stills, Jr. was, especially as a young kid growing up around his father. While other fathers and sons may have gone fishing or talked about girls, the Stills' duo discussed press coverages and how to beat them.
Kenny, Sr. had long since left football but admits he still enjoyed challenging his son in the game, while allowing him to learn the business through the stories that he and other ex-NFL friends freely shared around the household.
"Kenny has just been raised around the sport all of his life," the elder Stills said. "All of my buddies, guys I played in the league with, were always around and Kenny was fortunate to be around.
"He has many uncles who have played the sport."
Having that type of access has always seemed to serve Stills in football since his days of playing Pop Warner for the Mighty Pirates on through his time as a standout wideout with La Costa Canyon High School in San Diego and definitely during his time with the Sooners.
Many of the nuances and fundamentals of the game were already instilled, while his peers who didn't have the benefit of a father who played in the NFL, either had to learn or rely on natural athletic ability.
"Kids who grow up around parents who have been in pro football or college football, they talk the game, they learn the game, they hear the stories and so they are just a little bit better prepared," said OU co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Jay Norvell, who competed against Kenny, Sr. in college. "Kenny could have been a good defensive back."
Norvell says from day one he could see Stills had a natural understanding of the game to go along with his impressive athletic ability. Those attributes paved the way for Stills to start every game of his three-year college career from his true freshman season.
"Kenny had very good athletic ability, he's got good vertical speed, he's a very good route runner and he gets in and out of breaks because he has good body control and he's very smart," said Norvell, who spent part of his six years as an NFL assistant coaching All-Pro receiver Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne in Indianapolis. "It's a combination of athletic ability, body control, agility and intelligence that really help receivers be good route runners and Kenny has those qualities."
Stills joins a Saints team that already has a few players whose fathers previously played in the NFL. Running back Mark Ingram, defensive end Cam Jordan and fellow receiver Nick Toon all grew up as sons of NFL-playing fathers.
Stills admits there is a huge advantage he and his three teammates have over their peers.
"I think it's the understanding we have for the business and we know how we have treat it," he said. "We know we have to come in and work our tails off every single day. Nothing less is expected from us."
It's almost like Stills is echoing the advice his father has given him as he sets upon his first Rookie Minicamp with the Saints this weekend.
"Today we were talking about Rookie Minicamp and what to expect. I always tell him to act like a pro in the business," said Kenny, Sr., who played in the NFL in the 1980s. "I've been there and done it and I didn't do it that way. We were just a bunch of clowns.
"But I've told him to treat it like it's a professional job because that's what it is. I told him to realize it doesn't last forever."
That much the younger Stills seems to grasp, as he does the many lessons his father taught him from the time he was a kid. He still remembers vividly those lessons about the game.
Now, Stills is anxious to put them into practice in the NFL.
"Since age 6 when I started playing football I dreamed of playing in the NFL, especially being that my dad played," he said. "It's almost like we are in competition. Obviously he played defense, but for me to be able to make it and to get drafted before him, now I just have to go out there and prove myself and hopefully have a great career."
The consensus seems to be that the speedy 6-foot, 194-pound receiver has been given a great start to his career. While there was some disappointment that he slipped from the expected third round to the fifth, the feeling is Stills couldn't have landed in a better spot than with the Saints.
He will have the chance to catch balls from one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in Drew Brees. Stills will also be part of Coach Sean Payton's prolific offense while working as understudy to Saints stalwart receivers Marques Colston and Lance Moore.
"A lot of times it's better to be in the right place than to necessarily get drafted higher," said Norvell. "I know financially you would like to see that but in the long run it's better to be in the right place for his career. I think it will benefit him being there."
Kenny, Sr. agrees. "He has a great opportunity in front of him," the elder Stills said. "His focus should be winning an NFL championship, making the playoffs and working as hard as he can with one of the best quarterbacks around and a great surrounding cast, a great head coach and offensive coordinator.
"He fell into a situation where you couldn't have flipped a coin or thrown a dart and landed better for a receiver."
It remains to be seen how prepared Stills is to compete with Joe Morgan and Toon for time behind Colston and Moore. But if his high school and college careers are any indication, Stills will certainly turn some heads with his vertical speed and big-playmaking ability.
Stills, who remains the all-time leading receiver in San Diego high school history, became known for his flair during his three years at OU. Before leaving school a year early, Stills amassed 204 catches for 2,594 yards and 24 touchdowns and more than 65 percent of his career catches were for either first downs or touchdowns.
"He has a knack for making big plays," Norvell said. "He likes to play when it's the biggest games. His best games were some of our biggest games. He always played well against Texas, he always made big plays. He had the winning touchdown against Florida State, which was one of our marquee games of the year.
"He is one of those guys when the bright lights come on he responds, makes plays in traffic, finishes on deep balls, he's got the ability to run past people. He's a talented guy. He's got good football smarts and understands coverages, understands the game because he's been around it with his dad for a long time."
You will get no argument there from Kenny, Sr., who has prepared his son well for the opportunity he now has.
"Not because he's my child and I want to boost him, but he makes plays," the elder Stills said. "He knows how to high point the ball. Being an old DB and playing against his dad, he knows how to high point the ball in the red zone and the end zone. He knows where the chains are, he knows how to get depth, he knows to push guys' cushions, he knows how to turn get guys to turn their hips and then sit down and then catch it.
"He's raw and has a lot to learn but he will be fine."
Father knows best for Saints rookie receiver Kenny Stills | NOLA.com
Re: Father knows best for Saints rookie receiver Kenny Stills
You tell 'em Daddy-o. :beatnik:
Re: Father knows best for Saints rookie receiver Kenny Stills
I hope he pans out. Too many times sons of former players do NOT have good careers in the NFL.
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