One of 26 prospects to accept an invitation to attend the 2012 NFL Draft, Penn State's Devon Still waited for what seemed like forever at Radio City Music Hall. He wasn't selected in the first round Thursday after being ranked for most of last season as a top-20 pick.
But the 2011 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year finally heard his name called more than 90 minutes into the second round of the NFL draft.
"It's definitely a rollercoaster. Only a certain amount of people get to play in the NFL," Still said Friday night with a sigh of relief. "Just for me to be here and experience New York and be in the NFL, is a blessing."
The Cincinnati Bengals selected the Penn State defensive tackle with the 53rd overall pick. He was the seventh defensive tackle drafted. Still isn't unfamiliar with the Bengals, considering he has passionately rooted for the Steelers for years. The blue-collar mentality of the AFC North won't be foreign, either.
"I know it's a hard hitting conference," Still said.
Still's ideal position is the three technique defensive tackle position alongside a bigger nose tackle who can free him from facing double-team blocking. But late coach Joe Paterno and defensive line coach Larry Johnson cross-trained Still at multiple positions in the Nittany Lions' 4-3 front, and he said he's willing to adjust to any position the Bengals consider a need.
"I'm just happy to have the opportunity to play in the NFL. I'm just ready to go to work for the team that invested in me," Still said. "I'm somebody who's going to play hard every down. Hopefully get them to the Super Bowl like they need to be."
"Still is a good pass rusher for a defensive tackle. He has athletic ability, quickness, can slip blocks," he said.
The Bengals have the depth at defensive tackle to consider Still at their "elephant" end position. They did lost Jonathan Fanene, the team's top backup defensive tackle, in free agency but Geno Atkins and Domata Peko form an underrated tandem with similar skills. Atkins led the team with 7.5 sacks last season and Peko had 2.5.
"I averaged 65 plays a game in college," Still said when asked about playing in a rotation. "Playing 20 snaps a game will help my endurance out and make more of an impact."
Iowa offensive tackle Riley Reiff, the 23rd overall pick, was the first Big Ten player drafted in the first round. Wisconsin offensive guard Kevin Zeitler went to Cincinnati at No. 27.
Zeitler said the two Big Ten defensive tackles he faced last season rate with the cream of the 2012 draft crop. Worthy was drafted two picks before Still by the Green Bay Packers.
"Jerel Worthy from Michigan State and Devon Still from Penn State ...He had one heck of a season," said Zeitler.
Still was ranked by most as a first-round pick before a mediocre workout at the Scouting Combine. Questions about his on and off motor likely kept him out of the first round Thursday. Three defensive tackles were chosen in the first round, all in a span of four picks in the top 15: Memphis' nose tackle Dontari Poe (11th, Chiefs), versatile Fletcher Cox (12th, Eagles) of Mississippi State and LSU three-technique Michael Brockers (14th, Rams).
Still also could have been considered a bit unproven and admitted at the Scouting Combine he answered questions about being a one-year wonder in team interviews. He had two major injuries at Penn State -- torn ACL, broken fibula -- in back-to-back seasons. But Paterno and Johnson praised Still for showing maturation and grinding through difficult physical and personal challenges.
It all merely puts Still back where he wants to be -- proving ground, to show he belonged with the best at his position.
"I think hands down I'm the best defensive tackle in this draft, just because I feel like I want it more," Still said at the Scouting Combine. "I was able to take over a lot of games this season. Just the production that I had, I was able to disrupt plays even if I wasn't making tackles or sacks."