He’s made a difference on Tuesdays all season long, tirelessly giving back to the community on his day off. Now, he’s back doing it on Sundays as well, evidenced by his season-best performance against the Patriots.
Things are coming together nicely for Kenny Stills and if you know him, if you follow his path and understand his priorities, you’ll quickly realize he deserves everything he’s getting. The accolades. The passes. Everything.
It’s been a few days since Stills has been named the team’s nominee for NFL Man of the Year and with the game against the Patriots occupying so much of our attention, I haven’t had a chance to properly weigh in, until now.
The decision to award this honor to Stills for the second year in a row has slam dunk written all over it. Look at this way: There are players that give back and then there is Kenny Stills.
Nobody does more than he does. Nobody gives up every single off day to spend time in the community, helping, advising, counseling and in some cases putting a kindergarten girl on his lap and reading: “Duck, Duck Goose.”
That’s what Stills did on one of his recent Tuesday visits at Miami’s Scott Lake Elementary and while so many people have written about his battle against social injustice, his work with police departments and the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) and his passion to help those less fortunate, it is the time he spends with children, and the look in their eyes, that seem to affect him most.
For them, Kenny Stills isn’t a football player, but simply a nice, friendly, warm young man who wants to add a little brightness to their lives.
“It’s different when you’re with (kids) because they’re just straight up with you,” Stills said. “They’re very honest. They’re not shy about anything. I love spending time with them and I know that, I hope that, I can be a positive influence in their lives.”
Like he has already for so many people, regardless of age. See, Kenny Stills is all about giving. Every chance he gets. To every person he meets. It is his passion, his purpose and the underlying story of his journey.
“Like I tell the kids,” Stills said. “If you can do one good deed a day it can change the world.”
The Dolphins have had three previous nominees—Dwight Stephenson, Dan Marino and Jason Taylor—win the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award. I’m sure there are inspiring stories in every city, stories that clearly depict why their nominee is most deserving. This isn’t something, after all, that can be judged by statistics or game changing plays. This is about measuring heart and commitment.
And when it comes to those two areas, it’ll be hard to find someone more qualified than Stills.
Then there’s the football part of his story, a player who of recent has had a major impact on this offense and who is coming off his finest performance of the season against the Patriots with 8 catches for 135 yards and a touchdown. With all the injuries at receiver, Stills has become the focal point of this passing game and remarkably has produced six touchdowns in just 32 receptions.
He came here from the Saints back in 2015 as primarily a long ball threat, but has become much more than that. Nine of Ryan Tannehill’s 19 passes last Sunday were directed toward Stills. One moment, though, he’d rather forget, a second-and-16 play in the fourth quarter where Stills slid to a stop after 15 yards, thinking he had reached the marker. A play later, Tannehill was sacked, the Dolphins were forced to punt and that led to a Patriots’ field goal and a 30-28 lead.
“My awareness was bad on that,” Stills said. “I figured I’d got the first down. I was trying to protect the ball.”
This explains why Stills fell to his knees in thanks when the Dolphins pulled off that dramatic final play touchdown. You never want to be the reason you lose a game, certainly a game of this magnitude.
Didn’t hurt any either that Stills played an important role in that final play, getting the pass from Tannehill and then lateraling to DeVante Parker. It’s a play they practiced so many times before. “Sometimes,” Stills says, “it is like, ‘Why are we doing this?’ And now we know why.”
You just know Stills will be relied upon heavily over these final three regular season games. He relishes that. Has been waiting much of his career for it. But he never complained when the ball didn’t come his way, always taking the high road, knowing deep down his chances would come.
“It’s all about winning games,” he says. “That’s always been my mindset.”
Truth is, Kenny Stills doesn’t need to win football games to be a winner. What he does off the field, how he embraces the community and all the lives he has touched has already made him the most impressive kind of winner, the kind that will never be judged by a scoreboard but instead by the smiles on people’s faces.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills turned heads Thursday afternoon when he commented that he couldn’t throw the ball to himself.
Stills has just six catches for 91 yards and a touchdown on 13 targets since Week 6, so his concern carried merit when looking over the past five games. Stills dealt with a groin injury in Week 8 and did not play against the Houston Texans.
“I couldn’t tell you exactly why I’m not getting more targets,” Stills said, via The Miami Herald. “I can tell you that I’m getting open and I’m trying to take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way.”
“There isn’t much that can pull this team apart,” Stills said. “There’s no single person that you can point the finger at.”
Stills, who had 847 yards receiving and six touchdowns in 2017, enjoyed a good start to the 2018 campaign, totaling 12 catches for 224 yards and a touchdown on 19 targets in the first four games.
After missing five games, Tannehill returned to action in Week 12, but targeted Stills once.
While Stills might not have intended to stir the proverbial pot, the Dolphins might have a squeaky wheel to deal with. Whether he said enough to get the necessary grease in the form of more opportunities to catch passes remains to be seen.
Excuse it however you’d like, and Miami’s coaches have gone about it a couple different ways – blaming a groin injury, the types of routes he’s running, the game plan for each week, the defensive calls, the quarterback change – but Kenny Stills has been nearly invisible since the first month of the season.
Stills, a four-year starter for the Dolphins, has caught eight passes for 108 yards and one touchdown the past six games.
“I couldn’t tell you exactly why I’m not getting more targets. I can tell you I’m getting open and trying to take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way,” said Stills, who has 20 catches for 332 yards and four touchdowns in the 10 games he’s played. “I try to control the things I can control…It’s frustrating. It’s a team game….When the ball comes my way I have to make plays with it….I’m the team guy I always have been.”
Stills admitted this stretch of games, which has coincided with Miami’s offensive struggles, has been personally frustrating, then he points out “I can’t throw the ball to myself.”
Stills later specified that he wasn’t blaming Miami’s quarterbacks.
“I feel like I can get open from anywhere,” he added. “It’s a matter of protecting [the quarterbacks] and getting the ball out there.”
In fairness to Stills, who is considered a deep-ball specialist, the former University of Oklahoma standout was thrown six passes during Brock Osweiler’s five starts as Ryan Tannehill’s replacement.
Last week Stills caught one of the four passes Tannehill throw his way, contributing 6 yards.
“Teams know where Stills is,” Dolphins offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “Sometimes the coverage is going to take the ball [to him] and sometimes it’s not.”
More will likely be put on Stills’ plate this week, especially if Danny Amendola is sidelined by the right knee injury he suffered in Miami’s 27-24 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. DeVante Parker is already playing with a shoulder injury, and has been platooning in and out of the game.