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October 10, 2011

Following several stops in the NFL, former Tech receiver Bryan Still is making his mark at home

By: Jimmy Robertson

If someone gave Bryan Still a laptop and told him to write up the perfect ending to a collegiate career, he’d find the assignment a rather easy one.

He’d just type the ending to his own career.

Bryan Still hauled in this 54-yard touchdown reception to ice Tech’s thrilling 28-10 victory over Texas in the 1995 Sugar Bowl.

Still played as a receiver at Tech from 1992-95 and was the key player in the Hokies’ historical 28-10 dismantling of the University of Texas in the 1995 Sugar Bowl, a game that marked Tech’s first big bowl appearance and thus its first big bowl victory. Still earned the game’s MVP honors after catching 119 yards worth of passes and scoring two touchdowns.

“That was the best game I’ve ever had,” Still said. “To do that on the biggest stage like that, I was fortunate to be able to put it all together. I couldn’t have written a better script.”

His career certainly didn’t start in that fashion after he arrived in Blacksburg in the fall of 1992 from Richmond’s Huguenot High School. He played as a true freshman, but shared time with Antonio Freeman, Ray Crittenden, Bo Campbell, Jermaine Holmes and Steve Sanders and played less than 50 snaps that season. The team finished with a 2-8-1 record.

He played in the shadow of Freeman the next two seasons, as Freeman led the team in receiving three straight seasons from 1992-94. But in 1995, his senior season, Still led the Hokies in receptions (32) and yards (628), and his career ended in the Sugar Bowl win, which included a 54-yard scoring reception from Jim Druckenmiller. He also returned a punt 60 yards for a touchdown.

Following the season, Still – who graduated from Tech with a degree in communication studies – prepared himself for the NFL Draft, and the San Diego Chargers selected him in the second round of the 1996 draft. He played in 49 games for the Chargers and caught 81 passes in a near four-year span.

“It was a good experience,” Still said. “It was eye opening. I realized early on that I wasn’t going to be a 14- or 15-year NFL player. I realized it wasn’t what I truly wanted to do.

“Growing up, my goal was always to play in the NFL, and I thought I’d love it and play a lot. But it wasn’t in the cards for me. In that fourth year with San Diego, they were looking to go in a different direction, and I was, too.”

It didn’t help that Still played for four different head coaches while in San Diego – Bobby Ross, Kevin Gilbride, June Jones and Mike Riley. That meant four different offensive coordinators and four different receiving coaches, too.

San Diego cut Still during the 1999 season after four games. The Atlanta Falcons picked him up, and he played in three games with the Falcons, catching two passes. Then the Falcons released him, and he signed with the Dallas Cowboys right before the season finale.

That offseason, he had an opportunity to go to the Chicago Bears preseason camp. But Still decided he wanted to be through with football, so he retired.

Still headed back to San Diego to be with his fiancée, Marie. The two of them moved to Richmond, and in May of 2000, the Still family became larger with the birth of a son named Isaiah.

“I knew I was always going to come back home,” Still said. “I’m from Richmond, and I’m a home body. So we decided to move back to Richmond, and we’ve been here ever since.”

Still took a year off, and then he talked with his high school coach, Richard McFee, about helping out with the Huguenot squad. Several people suggested to Still that he go back to school and become certified to be a teacher and get into coaching.

Ultimately, he took their advice, becoming certified in health and physical education. He started his new career at Meadowbrook High School, and later, moved to Falling Creek Middle School. But for the past six years, he’s been at Cosby High School in Chesterfield County outside of Richmond. He helped with the football team for four years, but decided to give that up to concentrate on his duties as the school’s track and field coach.

“I enjoy helping kids the way I was helped,” Still said. “I do miss playing and coaching football, and I hope one of these days to get the opportunity to be a head coach. But I enjoy what I’m doing, working with kids and trying to help them.”

Still keeps up the Hokies, and he and Holmes talk quite regularly. He gets back to Blacksburg usually once a year, and when he does, he makes sure to stop by a certain person’s office.

“I always make it a point to stop by Coach Beamer’s office,” Still said. “He’s my favorite coach of all time. I really appreciate everything that man did for me.”

Maybe down the line, Cosby High kids will say the same about Still.