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#LeahStrong: Patriots honor Devon Still during Sunday Night Football


Sometimes, players can be on the same team even if they're wearing different color jerseys.

That was the case for a brief moment during last night's matchup at Gillette Stadium when the Patriots honored Bengals player Devon Still and his four-year-old daughter Leah, who is battling cancer.

During the third quarter, the Patriots Cheerleaders unzipped their pink jackets – worn in support of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month – to reveal Devon's jersey, as a video tribute to his daughter and other children fighting cancer played on the big screen.

"I was surprised," Devon said after the game. "I didn't know they had the jerseys on. And then they played the video. It definitely made it emotional to see the cheerleaders take off their jackets and to see the jerseys definitely took it over the top for me."

The tribute was planned after Leah's story made national headlines when Devon, originally cut from the Bengals, was signed to the team's practice squad to ensure he had health insurance to cover his daughter's treatment. Soon after, a video of Devon giving Leah a pre-surgery pep talk went viral, touching people around the world, including the Patriots organization.

With the Bengals coming to town, the team wanted to show its support of Devon and Leah, and, as Cheerleaders Director Tracy Sormanti said, "change the NFL for just a minute."

"During a regular game, it's a competition, team against team, player against player, and for fans it's the same thing; they only want their team to win," she said. "But with something like this, it takes away the whole competition and it unites everybody. It's about an individual and it's about the heart."

The cheerleaders were thrilled to do their small part to support pediatric cancer on a night when breast cancer awareness was at the forefront, with its signature pink seen on the field and around the stadium.

"When Tracy told us about it, I almost started crying," said Cheerleader Maddie prior to the game. "I was so touched. I think it's great that across teams we can support each other." Her fellow cheerleader Britt B. agreed.

"It says so much, not only about the Patriots organization but the NFL in general, that we value people and the spirit of giving and supporting one another," she remarked. "I'm so honored to be part of promoting such a powerful and positive message."

The jerseys worn by the women were purchased with 100 percent of the proceeds going to cancer research at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. Patriots owner Robert Kraft also donated $25,000 to the hospital in Leah's name.

"That's great," Devon replied when informed of the donation. "It's great how everybody has been stepping up, not just from [Cincinnati], but across the country. It has just been amazing, and it is great for the cancer community.

"We came here to play a football game with an opposing team, and I didn't expect them to show the support that they did today. It was amazing what they did today. It shows the fight is more than about football." 

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