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Inside My Second Season

Dec 23 2016
Photo by
Alex Brandon/AP Images
Photo by
Alex Brandon/AP Images
Stefon Diggs
Minnesota Vikings
Dec 23 2016

If you want to get to know me, you gotta get to know my younger brothers.

The Diggs brothers go hand in hand. Luckily, we keep it simple. We don’t do much besides ball.

Trevon is a freshman wide receiver at Alabama. Derez will be a cornerback at UAB when their program resumes next year. In addition to having two younger brothers, I have an older brother, Aron Jr., and an older sister, Porsche. Football is what we do. A big part of our bond is working out together, FaceTiming and texting about football. We play Madden, but I always win — I call it the “curse of the older brother.” They’ll be up all four quarters, but I’ll come back and win every time. They can never close the deal on big bro.

Me and my younger brothers talk about “the plan” a lot. It’s our code for our life goals and dreams. We’ve been doing that since we were just young kids growing up in Maryland. But not everything has gone according to plan in my life so far.

stefon-diggs-01Stefon Diggs

My dad is the reason we’re so competitive. He was a basketball player, but football was his first love, and he’s the one who signed us up to play. He was our first coach. His health started declining, though, and it was hard to watch. He was always on that sideline coaching, no matter what.

Before I went to high school, we lost our father. At age 39, he died of congestive heart failure.

When my dad was around, me and my brother Aron Jr. used to do push-up and sit-up competitions every night, because that’s something our dad encouraged us to do. We used to have challenges to see who could do 100, who could do 1,000. (No one can do 1,000, but we’d try.) I was the younger brother, so I would try my hardest but still come up short of Aron, who was older and stronger.

But, when I turned 10, I was allowed to dress for a few games with my older brother’s team, with kids who were 13 or 14. I didn’t get to play much, but this one time they let me go out there in the fourth quarter. And, well … just watch:

Pop. The kid’s got it.

When my dad passed away, it put a lot on my mom’s shoulders. As I went through high school and started getting attention and accolades, all of the football stuff fell into her lap. But she’s our Superwoman. She works as an attendant on Amtrak trains, and she still found the energy back then to help me handle the stress of the recruiting process.

She had a straightforward way of thinking through things. With every school, she was always trying to find out who was accountable for me, who was going to make sure I was going to be doing my homework and going to class when I got there. She just came from a different perspective. She genuinely wanted what was best for me, and she wasn’t trying to steer me to one school or the other. That’s how it was with her. She weighed the good and the bad for each college, and then helped me make the decision I wanted to make. She loves me and wanted me to make the decision that I’d be happiest with.

Fortunately, that choice was easy.

What happened after that was hard.

In the end, I chose Maryland — I wanted to be near Trevon and Derez. We’d been through it all — together. We would split syrup sandwiches as kids when times were lean. I wanted to be close to them so I could go home and chew them out if they were doing anything they weren’t supposed to. Even though Aron Jr. was around too, I wanted to be that father figure that they didn’t have. I wanted them to be able to come to the Maryland games, come to my dorm room, and see everything that college was all about. When it was time for those two to go to college, I didn’t want them to be surprised by anything. I wanted to show them the way.

usatsi_8186851Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports

At Maryland, I had a good freshman year but I dealt with injuries my sophomore and junior seasons. They were pretty big setbacks, too — I broke my fibula and missed most of my sophomore year, and in my junior year I lacerated my kidney and missed the end of the season. That didn’t deter me, though. My whole life, I knew I was going to play in the NFL. That was my goal. I knew no matter what I had to do, I was going to get there. When my dad died, it gave me more motivation. To this day, he’s on my mind every snap I take.

I thought I would go earlier in the draft, but the picks came and went. When I got drafted in the fifth round, pick 146, I’m thinking, I’m going to put everything from the past in the past. I’m moving forward, man. There’s nothing at this point I can do about it. My teammates who have played with me know how hard I grind for them. I’ve got a great opportunity to show the Minnesota Vikings fans who I am as a player and as a person.

From that day forward, I’ve played every snap with a chip on my shoulder.

I might be crazy, but in my mind, the energy I’m channeling and the chip I’m using to motivate myself is for my teammates.

Speaking of teammates, I know y’all want to hear about how one of my good friends, Teddy Bridgewater, is doing.

When the play happened, it felt like the end of the world.

usatsi_9341825Brad Rempel/USA TODAY Sports

During training camp and the offseason, Teddy and I put in a lot of time so we could be on the same page, working hard to do everything the right way. We worked out together and we watched film together every week during the offseason.

During that fateful play in training camp, I was out there running a post route. I’m running out down the field as Teddy’s dropping back. I didn’t see what happened until I had turned around on the route. Teddy was already on the ground. I looked back toward the line and everyone looked distraught. There was a sense of shock in that moment. I just knew it was really bad.

I’d never seen people react like that. They had looks of horror on their faces, and no one was moving. The whole field, the whole arena, was silent. All you could hear was Teddy shouting in pain.

I was really sad. But I couldn’t let that feeling last.

Like I said, the Diggs brothers are always thinking about tomorrow.

I had to focus on the things I could control — what I brought to the table. I wanted to crank it up a notch just to show my teammates I had their back no matter what. After Teddy went down, I made it a point to be obsessed with whatever my quarterback liked about our offensive game plan in practice. If Sam Bradford was in a meeting and said he liked a certain play, I would say to myself, I wanna be the best at that play.

You might not see him on the field on Sundays, but Teddy’s impact on this team is still felt every week. He texts me, and tries to help me play my best from a QB’s point of view. He feeds me that inside look, that inside scoop. He gives me positive energy on a daily basis. We play Madden a lot, too … and he usually wins. I’ll cop to that.

I know it’s hard for Teddy, because if you live for ball like we do, nothing can replace the feeling you get when you hear that whistle blow at the beginning of a game.

The whistles before and after the game serve as time markers for me. All week you study, study, study and on Sunday it’s test time. I love acing that test. It’s something I always tell my brothers about. I tell them, enjoy that first whistle. Compete from beginning to end. So when that whistle blows at the end of the game they know what your name is.

Make a name for yourself and you can do anything you want. Me and my brothers are working on it.

ap_477093878514Andy Clayton-King/AP Images

Trevon has been playing a lot as a true freshman at Bama, and I watch every game that I can. We share everything. I help him break down his film, telling him what I’m seeing and how he can sharpen his game. It’s our thing, and I love that I can be there for him in that way,

The Diggs brothers always asking each other, “What’s next?” It’s our motto. We know what we want out of life. You can always do better. Success today is good. But we’re working on tomorrow.

Listen, I’m a competitive guy. But I want my younger brothers to be better than I am on the field.

So Trevon is making an impact as a freshman at the No. 1 program in the country?

All part of the plan.

Next up for the Diggs brothers?

Getting momma off that train.

It’s time.

Stefon Diggs
Minnesota Vikings