CINCINNATI — Sean Payton and Devon Still have never met face-to-face but they’ll be sure to find each other before Sunday’s Bengals-Saints game in New Orleans. Payton might need to consult a game program first.
"I’m going to have to find a jersey number because I probably thought he was an offensive lineman," said the Saints head coach during a conference call with Cincinnati media on Wednesday.
One would think Still’s No. 75 would be permanently etched into Payton’s memory after Payton purchased 100 of Still’s jerseys back in September. The Bengals had announced a program in which proceeds of the jersey sales would go to help fund pediatric cancer research at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in honor of Still’s 4-year-old daughter Leah.
Payton was one of the first people to place an order.
Payton may not have known much about Still the football player but he was well-acquainted enough with people in the Bengals organization, from president Mike Brown to executive vice president Katie Blackburn and head coach Marvin Lewis, that he didn’t need to think much about his purchase. He put a call in to the Bengals Pro Shop within 24 hours of the announcement. The 100 jerseys were donated directly to Children’s Hospital.
"I was driving home and this subject came up of Devon and the team, and the Brown family, Marvin Lewis. It was just something that listening to the radio was something I heard," said Payton. "Just hearing how they handled it was pretty inspirational. It was really spontaneous and something I thought would be a good gesture."
Beyond being a good gesture, it set the tone for a campaign that resulted in more than $1.3 million being donated to Children’s Hospital. The Bengals, with Leah Still on the field for the ceremony, presented a check to the hospital during last Thursday night’s game against Cleveland.
Payton and Still have spoken over the phone on a radio interview but never in person.
"He’s basically what got the ball rolling with everything. A lot of the credit goes to him for what he did," said Still. "You really can’t thank somebody the way you want to or are supposed to over the phone. It’s something you have to do face to face, so I’m definitely looking forward to meeting him."