Football, Sports, WVU Sports

Family affair: WVU’s Bryce Ford-Wheaton, Dante Stills hope to continue family success vs. Pitt

MORGANTOWN — WVU wide receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton never saw highlights of the 1965 Backyard Brawl between the Mountaineers and Pitt, which isn’t surprising considering that game kicked off 57 years ago at Old Mountaineer Field.

But in front of a crowd of 35,000 on an early October day, Ford-Wheaton’s grandfather Garrett Ford Sr. had one of the best performances in program history.

Ford Sr. had 341 all-purpose yards, a then-school record, and had 133 yards rushing in one quarter against the Panthers.

Ford-Wheaton, a fifth-year senior, received a package from his grandmother recently — something to help him get ready for Thursday’s renewal of the Backyard Brawl at Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh.

“My grandfather would talk about it a little bit, I know he had a really good game against Pitt but I couldn’t remember what year,” Ford-Wheaton said. “I just watched the DVD of it, my grandmother sent it up to me. I put it in my PS5 and was surprised it worked.

“I saw it first-hand on there. Yeah, he went off. That was cool to see.”

The following year in 1966 at Pitt Stadium, Ford Sr. “went off” again, rushing for 154 yards and a touchdown, though it came in a Panthers’ win.

He did not play against Pitt in his final year at WVU in 1967.

Ford-Wheaton’s uncle, Ford Sr.’s son, Garrett Ford Jr., played against Pitt all four years he was at WVU from 1989-92.

Now, a third-generation Mountaineer will get a chance to play the Panthers.

“It’s a cool experience and I’m really glad I get to be a part of it,” Ford-Wheaton said.

Another WVU legacy will have big shoes to fill based off a family member’s success against Pitt.

Senior defensive tackle Dante Stills knows all about the Backyard Brawl, growing up in Fairmont, and his father, Gary, had a strong showing against the Panthers as a senior in 1998.

As a sophomore in 1996, Gary Stills had just two tackles, and didn’t play the Panthers in 1997 due to a knee injury.

But as a senior in 1998, the elder Stills had five tackles — all for a loss — including two sacks in a 52-14 WVU win at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh.

Dante, who is just seven sacks behind his dad on the all-time list at WVU, is ready for his chance to brawl.

“I can’t really put it into words because inside, I’m really excited like a little kid, but I can’t really do that,” Stills said with a laugh. I am excited and it’s a game I’ve always wanted to play in, but I just have to keep a level head and stay relaxed. I don’t want to get too amped up, but at 7:30 (Thursday), you’ll see.”

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