The football rifled out of the jugs machine and came spiraling at young Stefon Diggs.
The five-star Diggs could help a college football team at several different spots, but receiver looks like his best position.
Just a freshman at the time, Diggs stuck his big paw up in the air, halting the pigskin in its tracks, impressively catching it at the point of the ball.
I’ve never seen anybody do that before,” Olney (Md.) Good Counsel coach Bob Milloy said. The Hall of Famer is the state’s all-time leader in wins. “That’s not easy to do.”
An assistant coach from Maryland was also on hand for Diggs’ impressive feat, and the Terrapins quickly became the first program to offer the future blue-chipper a scholarship.
“I went home and shed a tear or two,” Diggs said. “I told my mom and she said that’s big.”
Getting a football scholarship was one of the many reasons why Diggs and his mother chose Good Counsel over the public schools for high school. The full-rides quickly piled up for Diggs, who likely projects as a receiver on the next level. He says Pittsburgh was next to offer, and during that summer, Miami and Virginia Tech joined the party. Fast forward to now, and the nation’s top-ranked athlete recruit and No. 10 prospect overall according to 247Sports, could sign with nearly any school in America that he wants.
For the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Diggs, adjusting to major high school football at one of the nation’s top programs was the easy part. However, coming from public school to a high-end private school where 99 percent of the school’s students go onto college was a challenge.
Principal’s assistant Patt Perfetto calls Stefon one of her sons.
Diggs was a standout at the U.S. Army National Combine last January and will end his prep career as a U.S. Army All-American.
A son that madly frustrated her through his first two years at Good Counsel, because she saw all the potential in the world as a student, wasn’t being applied in the classroom.
Diggs entered his ninth grade year and private school for the first time, shortly after losing his father and not having a sense for all important priorities.
“He’s still here,” Perfetto stated. “He’s a smart boy. He’s a really smart kid. I think it was just meshing in with the community. I don’t think he was used to the type of community Good Counsel has, and it took some time.”
A four-year varsity starter, Diggs helped lead the football team to the school’s first conference championships in 2009 and 2010. Academically he struggled until the light bulb went on late in his junior year. Then it was like Perfetto was talking to a different person.
“When he started taking his SAT and he realized it was going to make it or break it for him, that was when he really was like I have to do this,” Perfetto explained. “He’s working hard now. He’s a different kid. He’s matured a lot over the last three years and I saw a lot of that progress over the summer. One thing I think Stefon realizes with his potential, he sees there are other people that look up to him now. That’s something I think he’s very cognizant of. I think he’s trying to change his image and be a better role model.”
One of the most popular kids in school with friends in every different social circle, Diggs has buckled down in the classroom and aspires to land no marks below a B this school year. His motivation comes from his little brother who’s beginning the eighth grade and watching his every move.
“When I lost my father, it hit me that he will never see me play a high school game,” Diggs said. “My little brother, he looks up to me and I keep him in my heart. I feel like he’s going to do what I’m going to do. If I’m doing the right things, he’s going to want to do the right things. If I’m getting good grades, he’s going to want to beat me. I try to do the right things all the time so I don’t lead my little brother to do the wrong things.”
Diggs doesn’t even recognize the kid he was two years ago.
“I do shake my head a lot,” he said. “I was real immature. I didn’t take responsibility for my actions. The coaches continued to work with me. (Assistant) Coach (Kevin) McFadden never gave up on me even though we had our ups and downs. Ms. Perfetto through thick and thin, she always had my back.”
Obviously for Diggs, one of major goals is to play on Sundays, but he also aspires to be a psychologist, and also has an interest in economics and the stock market. He smiles at the thought of during his freshman and sophomore years, he didn’t think of any future other than the NFL.
“Hopefully I made the people proud here making the adjustments I’ve made and becoming more responsible, and hopefully I continue to do that.”
It looks like he has.
Milloy’s face lights up when he talks about Diggs and his potential. Teachers around the building have nothing but good things to say.
“He is so smart,” Milloy said. “He’s really grown up a lot. He went to summer school this past summer and took over a D and got a B out of it. He’s smart as a whip. He’s very, very street smart. He’s very popular. He’s very well liked and he’s very kind. On the field, he’s not selfish. Some kids are like I want the ball, I want the ball. He’s not like that at all. His teammates like him.”
Diggs doesn’t demand the ball and says he stays patient throughout a game, but Milloy and the offensive staff certainly try to get one of the country’s most dynamic playmakers the ball as much as possible.
As a junior, Diggs used his 4.4 speed to rack up 1,613 all-purpose yards and 23 total touchdowns. He’s also an elite player in the Good Counsel secondary, and will end his prep career as a U.S. Army All-American.
“Probably out of all the kids I’ve had, he probably has the best opportunity to play on Sunday talent-wise,” Milloy said. A 41-year coaching veteran, Milloy has sent 87 players onto college football since taking over Good Counsel in 2001. “The road is there all he has to do is take it.”
Diggs is certainly trying.
Diggs says he talks regularly with Good Counsel receivers coach Tom McMahon about philosophies regarding the game. He also watches film every night at home of the next opponent, and he uses YouTube as a regular library of information.
The player Diggs studies the most online is New England Patriots wide out Chad Ochocinco.
“I watch a lot of YouTube videos to see what receivers do and corners do in certain situations,” Diggs began. “Somebody showed me an Ochocinco video, so I was like I’m going to do more research. I kind of got caught up on that and kind of got hooked.”
Diggs says he’s since watched at least nine Ochocinco videos.
“In the winter I was working on cone drills in the gym and this summer I got after it,” he said of what he’s learned. “My feet have got better, my hands and hand movements and fakes. I wasn’t as strong as I thought I was. I thought I had better feet and more control for my body.”
Recruiting hits the fan
Diggs hasn’t made any significant cuts to his lengthy list of scholarship offers, but a few programs have emerged.
Auburn, California, Florida, Maryland, Miami, Ohio State, South Carolina and Virginia are all programs the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Diggs says have caught his attention in some capacity.
Last Wednesday night, Diggs spoke with Auburn assistant coach Trooper Taylor.
“Trooper Taylor, that’s my man,” Diggs stated. He visited the campus during the summer and would like to make it back for the Florida game on Oct. 15. “We talk a lot. We’ve been through the same thing with our father, that kind of thing, so I kind of relate to him. I talked to him last night. He was in a meeting but he took some time out and talked to me. I like how they always stick together. When they say War Eagle, everybody is with them. The whole town, there is nobody against them. They stick together. It’s a family at Auburn and I like the way they run things.”
Diggs hasn’t scheduled any official visits, but he says Cal will get the first.
“Coach Tosh (Lupoi), he’s recruiting me a lot,” Diggs said. “One of the coaches this past spring came up to watch us. He’s a good guy. I haven’t yet got to see Cal but I plan on it. It’s definitely my first official. I’m going to set that up.”
Diggs is looking to attend the Florida-Florida State game in Gainesville on Nov. 26. Gators assistant coach Aubrey Hill visited Good Counsel last Friday, and Diggs says that he’s hit it off with Florida offensive coordinator Charlie Weis.
“He made me laugh,” Diggs said. “He’s the first coach to kind of make me laugh. He’s real honest. He’s real blunt. The proof is in the pudding. I saw what he did with Golden Tate at Notre Dame. He gets his players the ball. He gets his playmakers the ball, someway somehow, he’s going to get you the ball. He’s a good guy. Told me a couple good stories about the players he had and the way he handled them. I like Florida.”
Diggs attended Maryland’s season-opening win over Miami and had a phone call setup with head coach Randy Edsall for last Thursday night. Diggs likes what he sees from the first-year coach, and after attending the first game believes the program is headed in the right direction.
“He came in and made a lot of changes,” Diggs said. “He’s real disciplined. He doesn’t play a lot of games. He showed it in that Miami game, and they didn’t have a couple players play, It was nice seeing them play, and Coach Edsall just executed. Danny O’Brien is a great quarterback. He has a good head, strong arm, was an all-ACC quarterback last year, so they surprised me a lot.”
Diggs grew up a Miami fan and says he’ll consider the Hurricanes until the end.
“Regardless of the situation,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter. As of right now I see they’re going through a lot and it’s not fazing them as a team. They’re still running as a team. They’re still working. Coach (Al) Golden won’t let that stuff faze them. I like how they stay focused.”
Diggs added that Miami is one of the top two prettiest campuses he’s been to right there with Virginia.
“I like UVA a lot because of their academic situation and support system they have. That’s why I really like UVA.”
Diggs goes straight to the top when he talks to Ohio State.
“Luke Fickell, I try to give him a text message every once in a while,” Diggs said. “I know he can’t reply (per NCAA rules), but I send him a text and let him know how I’m doing. I like him. I like what they’re doing. They have good young quarterbacks and I haven’t seen any top receivers go their recently. I’m looking at them.”
South Carolina was another place Diggs got a chance to see this summer.
“I like South Carolina a lot. Coach (Steve) Spurrier, I’ve talked to him. He wasn’t there when I went down there. I talk to Coach (G.A.) Mangus, he’s a good guy. South Carolina is big on my list. I really like Clemson too. They’re kind of in the same area. They’re both good schools.”
Diggs has also visited Alabama, North Carolina and Virginia Tech. He’s 85 percent sure he’ll announce his college decision on National Signing Day, but says there’s a chance it could come at the U.S. Army All-America Bowl. The major thing he’s looking for is how close-knit the football program is.
“That’s why I like certain schools like Ohio State and Miami and those schools because they stick together like that. The Jim Tressel situation, he stuck up for his players and I liked that a lot. He showed integrity the way he stuck up for his guys. I look for a family, playing time, not so much location. My sister goes to school in Georgia at Mercer. I’m not scared to go far. Academic situation, and if my mom and little brother can come down to the games, That’s an important thing too.”
And these days, Diggs is on top of the important things.
GETTING TO KNOW STEFON DIGGS
Hours of homework you do a week: “I do about 90 minutes a day five days a week.”
Hours of film you watch a week: “It depends on the team. If it’s a tough game, I watch film every night.”
Favorite NFL team: Dallas Cowboys
Favorite NFL player:Desean Jackson, Andre Johnson and Chad Ochocinco.
An artist on your iPod you’d be embarrassed to share: The Weekend
Favorite meal: “Spaghetti, I’m a big pasta guy.”
First job: “I worked with my Mom at Amtrak as a little kid. I was paid in candy.”