Norman, Okla. With a bleached blonde streak on the back of his mohawk, his bottom lip pierced and his chest and arms covered with tattoos, Kenny Stills is clearly the wild child for top-ranked Oklahoma.
Turns out, he is a lot more than that.
The thoughtful, curious sophomore attacks life with an open mind and opposing defenses with his speed, size and soft hands. All together, it makes him a budding superstar for the Sooners (2-0).
Stills wasn’t always this way. He recalls writing a paper for school back in California, only to have to redo it all when his parents discovered his handwriting strayed from the lines.
“My parents, they were just really strict on things being perfect,” Stills said. “That taught me a lot, but I’m kind of on my own now. ... You only live one time, and I’m not going to be the type of person to say, ‘I wish I did this’ or ‘I wish I tried that.’”
Quarterback Landry Jones says his receiver has a magnetic personality, an ability to gather crowds. His choices in music range from country to rap, from gospel to hard rock, even a little techno.
“I’m just trying to take a stand for people that are unique,” Stills said. “I’m kind of a free spirit, you know what I mean? And people tell me I won’t do stuff, and I do it. That’s how I really take it. I love having fun and enjoying myself, and that’s what I’m doing while I’m here.”
He’s also developing into a playmaker. After then-No. 5 Florida State tied Saturday night’s game at 13, bringing the Tallahassee crowd roaring back to life, it was Stills who provided the answer by stretching out to snag Jones’ 37-yard touchdown toss and put Oklahoma back ahead to stay. Stills finished with a career-high 125 yards receiving.
“The players all love him. But you know, all that, he’s competitive and likes to play and he’s tough, and he’s talented,” coach Bob Stoops said. “He’s got excellent speed, hands. He’s got all the tools. ...
“He’s still very young, I think, but he’s not a freshman any more, which he showed the other night. I think he’s just going to continue to get better and better.”
Stills came to Oklahoma only after some convincing from fellow Southern Californian Brennan Clay. The two knew each other from seeing each other show up on a high-school football highlights show, then became friends after meeting at a football camp. They started hanging out on weekends, then Clay started recruiting Stills and defensive back Tony Jefferson to Oklahoma after he made an early commitment in 2009.
Clay persuaded the other two to visit Norman, and it wasn’t long until the Sooners had a California trio coming their way.
“He’s always smiling. He’s for the most part positive. He’s always laughing. Man, I love it about him,” said Clay, who is Oklahoma’s starting running back. “He’s always trying to crack a joke — even though he’s not funny.”