NORMAN — Oklahoma wide receiver Kenny Stills knows you're watching him.
The 2011 All-Big 12 second-team selection knows you notice when he wears dingy black Converse, white tube socks and gym shorts. He knows you wonder why he wears his hair in a black and blonde Mohawk, his lip piercing, his two stud earrings, his sleeves of tattoos.
He also has an affinity for wearing hoodies like Trayvon Martin, who was shot and killed in Florida.
In the wake of Martin's death, Stills spoke about Martin and what the attire, piercings and tattoos on a person say about their character and attitude.
How do you feel about Trayvon Martin's death?
“I definitely saw it as a tragedy. I really couldn't believe it at first, that people would feel intimidated by a young African-American male wearing a hood. Every time I have a sweatshirt that has a hood on, I have a hood on. What does that prove? Somebody has a hood on so you're intimidated by them? What is that? I felt like it hit home for a lot of people. I feel like a lot more people are conscious of it.”
Do you think young black men should change the way they dress in response to Martin's death?
“No. Not at all. I feel like a lot of it is stereotypes. It depends on the type of neighborhood that you live in. I don't know too much about this story, but it sounds like, from my teammates talking about it, that he was in a pretty nice neighborhood. They said that he had went to the store, and he had come back with a hood on. Someone was intimated enough that they felt they had to shoot him. I feel it's unfair for people to be able to do that. If you see somebody else — not an African-American male with a hood on — it's not a big deal. But you see him with one, and he's a threat. That's unfair, but that's the way the world works.”
Do you think you'll change the way you dress in response to his death?
“Nope. Not at all. Like I said, I love jackets with hoods on them. I don't know what they call them — hoodies, sweatshirts, pullovers. Whatever. I don't care what people call them, I love them. I'm going to continue to buy them, continue to wear my hood. With my hair, if I want to go out in public, I have to have a hat on or a hood on. So if people see me as intimidating and they see me as a threat to them, I guess they need to come up and talk to me because I'm not much of a threat.”
You encourage people to talk with you about your piercing, your tattoos, your hair?
“I love it. Most of my tattoos have a story. When people ask me, I tell them whatever they want hear. ‘What's this tattoo? What does this mean? Does it hurt?' I tell them everything they want to know. I'm a people person. I love to talk to people. Anytime someone comes up and approaches me I'm happy to talk to them because I know the position I'm in. I'm blessed to be where I am. I just love to share my story with people as much as I can.”
And part of your story is being a character. You're very aware of this?
“If people look at my situation — they look at all my tattoos, they look at my personality — they can find that happy medium. There's people out there that wear hoodies, that have tattoos and piercing, that look crazy and have huge hearts on the inside. That's what my point is. Yeah I have all this stuff, but if you come and talk to me you'll see how big my heart is and the type of person I am. You can't judge a book by its cover.”