METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Saints rookie receiver Kenny Stills Jr. has already earned enough respect from Sean Payton to see some first-team snaps, and enough trust from Drew Brees to see some deep passes come his way.
If he can earn a few compliments from his father, a former NFL safety, then he'll know he's really getting somewhere.
Stills talks with his father a couple times a week, and when they spoke after the rookie's preseason debut against Kansas City, the focus wasn't on his leaping 22-yard catch or the pass-interference penalty he drew by outracing his defender deep down field.
It was on a deep pass from Brees that he dropped.
"He wasn't very pleased with my performance," Stills said of his father. "That's just him being tough on me and I wasn't very pleased with it, either, so you can see where that comes from."
The elder Kenny Stills told his son that "it's unacceptable to drop a ball and I'm lucky I still have a few more opportunities to continue to prove myself — and make sure I'm catching everything," the younger Stills recalled.
"I feel like my parents did a good job just raising me," Stills added. "My dad was pretty tough on me — same with my mom. We made a mistake one time and that was kind of your learning curve, and after that it's unacceptable. So I just kind of carried that with me the rest of my life."
The Saints selected Stills out of Oklahoma in the fifth round of the draft. Stills said he wasn't surprised he was drafted in that round, only because the feedback he'd gotten from analysts told him he could expect to go between the third and fifth rounds.
Still, he hoped he would be drafted higher.
"I could definitely say I have a chip on my shoulder," Stills said.
Stills has numerous tattoos on his arms and torso symbolic of his life experiences, including a life guard tower on his right arm that reminds him of a childhood on the beaches of San Diego. He wears his dark hair close cut on the sides and thick on top, similar to a Mohawk, with a dyed-blond sliver on the top and back of his head.
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