Santa Claus was to bring 19-month-old Leah Still a bunch of toys, and her daddy, Devon, bought her a special necklace for Christmas.
"When I was younger, my dad bought my sister a necklace, something that she can hold onto for her whole life," Penn State's star defensive lineman said of his inspiration for the sentimental gift.
It's easy to tell that Still's daughter is his pride and joy. The big fella doesn't smile much, but his face always lights up when he talks about how Leah changed his life, his perspective on football and his career.
He couldn't give his daughter the Christmas gift he really wanted this week, but come April, Still hopes to give her the security of the millions of dollars that come with being a first-round NFL draft pick.
"That changes everybody's life," said Still, a projected first-rounder in most mock drafts. "If I get that Christmas present, I don't need nothing else from none of my family members. I'm good with that.
"It would be a blessing just to become a first-rounder after everything I went through," Still added. "I couldn't ask for more because I know I definitely worked for it."
Still, an All-American and one of the nation's top defensive players this season, made it clear that having a daughter played a major role in his transformation from decent player as a junior to dominant player as a senior.
"That was my main motivation, my biggest motivation just to know that I'm playing for her livelihood," he said. "I wasn't going to let nobody go out there and stop me from being able to provide for my daughter."
Channing Smythe, Leah's mom and Still's longtime girlfriend, helps raise the little girl at their off-campus apartment. He spent Christmas with them back home in Delaware and was to rejoin his teammates in Dallas for the TicketCity Bowl by Monday evening.
"My girlfriend takes most of the load off me, so therefore I'm able to focus on football," Still said. "When I get time to spend with [Leah], it's all about me and her building a relationship."
Still will have to be a big factor if Penn State is to slow down Houston's high-powered offense enough to win the bowl game Jan. 2.
The 6-foot-5, 310-pound defensive tackle won't be telling his daughter the truth about Santa Claus just yet, but he joked about it when asked if Santa will be bringing the Nittany Lions a win in the bowl game.
"I'm 22 years old, I know there ain't no Santa," Still said. "I know we're going to have to put that work in for it.
"I think we need to give ourselves that gift," he added. "We're not looking for no handouts. We know what we have to do to go down there and win the ballgame."
It was one year ago, during the Outback Bowl against Florida, when Still first showed signs he could be a dominant force. He had overcome numerous injuries earlier in his career and was having an up-and-down 2010 season, only to enjoy a superb afternoon against the Gators.
Still had 3 1/2 tackles for loss and six solo stops, and all of a sudden he looked like a brute force who couldn't be stopped.
"He went out there and he didn't want to lose," defensive tackle Jordan Hill said of his line mate. "You've seen that in the beginning of the game last year when we were playing Florida.
"Since I've been there, up to that point, you really didn't hear much from Devon. And then in pregame he brought the team together and was giving us a speech and everything like that, and you could tell right then the type of year he was going to have [this season]."
Still returned for his senior year hoping to show people "what type of player I am." He spent more time studying game film with line coach Larry Johnson, who taught him how to maximize that process and how to better read offenses.
"I think last year was just like a stepping stone for me," Still said. "I was able to just understand football more, understand offenses, different formations and different blocking schemes, and I took that into this year and it just took off."
Still anchored Penn State's defense all season, then when the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke in early November, it was up to him to serve as a team leader and keep all the players focused during tough times.
It was Still's idea for all the players to come out locked arm in arm against Nebraska - the first game after the scandal - and that show of unity likely will remain as one of the lasting images of the season on the field.
"He's been playing great," interim head coach Tom Bradley said. "But I'm going to remember him and thank him for his great leadership off the field with the players, the way he's handled the team, the way he's been taking those guys under his wing and making sure that everybody does the right thing.
"And what happens is nobody gets to see that side of it. They just see him on the field. He spends a lot of time in that locker room off the field communicating, making sure we're on the right page."
Still excelled on the field, finishing the regular season with 17 tackles for loss, 4 1/2 sacks and 55 tackles (29 solo). He was named a finalist for the Bednarik and Nagurski awards, given to the nation's best defensive player, and for the Outland Trophy, which goes to the best interior lineman.
Still made the awards tour circuit but was shut out, although he was named first-team All-American by almost every major organization, including The Associated Press.
"I think I lived a good life these last couple of weeks," Still said. "I had fun traveling to the different awards shows. Unfortunately I wasn't able to bring nothing home, but it was a great experience. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
"The only award that I was upset [not to win]," he added, "was the Outland because I feel as though I proved I was the best interior lineman in the country, and unfortunately I didn't get the award."
Still made such a huge improvement this season that it led one reporter to asking him what he would like to tell people who think he might be a one-year wonder.
"For everybody that thinks I'm a one-year wonder," he said, "they can just see what I do at the next level."