MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Darius Stills was close to voiding his amateur status a year ago, following a strong junior season that had NFL scouts taking notice.
Instead, he decided to return to WVU for one more year, and in the process, claimed several All-America honors—West Virginia University’s first Consensus All-American since 2006—and kept professional teams more than interested.
Stills manned the center of the Mountaineers’ defensive line at nose tackle, helping WVU finish the 2020 campaign with a top 5 defense nationally.
For his efforts, Stills was named the 2020-21 recipient of the Hardman Award, as voted by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.
The Hardman Award, given to the state’s top amateur athlete, is named for the late A. L. (Shorty) Hardman, who served as sports editor (1936-60) and executive sports editor (1960-78) of the Charleston Gazette. The award is the oldest given by the Association and dates back to 1934. A complete list of honorees may be found on the wvsswa.org website.
Stills will be recognized at the 74th annual Victory Awards Dinner on May 23 at the Embassy Suites in Charleston.
He is the first WVU football player to win the award since Tavon Austin claimed it in 2012.
“It’s an honor to win this award, especially being from West Virginia,” Stills said. “It means a lot to me tobe able to represent West Virginia in the right way. Now, it’s time to represent West Virginia at the next level.”
Stills, a native of Fairmont and 2017 graduate of Fairmont Senior, was a two-year starter for the Mountaineers. This season, he finished with 7 1/2 tackles for loss, 3 1/2 sacks and an interception. For his career, Stills had 84 tackles. 25 1/2 tackles for loss and 11 1/2 sacks.
While Stills’ numbers were down this year compared to years past, WVU head coach Neal Brown said the biggest reason is Stills bought into what the team needed and became more natural as a nose tackle, and the national media took notice.
“This is a proud moment for Darius, his family and the WVU football program,” Brown said. “He is very deserving of Consensus All-America honors. He has been a great representative of the Mountaineers football program on and off the field, the university, and the state. We are proud of Darius and what he has meant to this program, especially that he will leaving WVU with his degree.”
In winning the award, Stills edged out West Liberty U. wrestler Cole Laya and University of Charleston women’s basketball player Brooklyn Pannell.
Laya, like Stills, is a Fairmont native but attended East Fairmont. This year with the Hilltoppers, Laya won a Division II national championship for the 125-pound weight class with a 12-2 major decision in the finals. Laya went 18-1 this season, won conference, regional and national titles, and was named the Mountain East Conference Wrestler of the Year.
Pannell was named a Division II All-American after averaging 23.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2,2 assists and 2.2 steals per game. She was also named the MEC Women’s Basketball Player of the Year.
Sean Manning is a sports writer for the Dominion Post and released this story on behalf of the WVSWA.