Stefon Diggs is a man who stays calm under pressure – he has to, but it’s also a mark of his approach to the hard work of being an NFL pro. As well as a fierce work ethic, he knows the value of preparation.
He says being as prepared as you can be is the answer, and he doesn’t mean ahead of the game. Diggs prepares for practice, in order to excel.
RSNG You have such a great work ethic and you never rest on your laurels, do you?
STEFON DIGGS, NFL “Well, I’m never satisfied and that’s why I – fingers crossed – keep on improving... It’s simply because I shouldn’t be given a pat on the back for doing my job. I am supposed to go out there and make the right routes, I am supposed to catch the ball, I am supposed to get touchdowns – that’s my job.
“I don’t want people congratulating me for doing the things that every wide receiver should do, haha! It’s all good when it comes, because it makes things worth it for your time, and of course I am going to be happy when it all comes together on the field.
“But I have always worked hard from the earliest time I started practicing and playing, because I want to be the best that I can. I’ve had the teachings of some of the best people I could ever have wished for, as well as setbacks in my life, such as my father passing away when I was 14.
“Repaying those who have faith in you is something you must do. Every time. So that’s what I’m doing.”
RSNG After the defeat to Kansas in the AFC Championship game back in 2019, you forced yourself to stay on the field and watch them celebrate. Is that what fuels and motivates you to do better and gain revenge next time?
STEFON DIGGS “It wasn’t really meant to be done so everyone could see me on my own and make it feel like I was the only one who cared about losing. It was just an instinctive thing and it was something which really hurt me.
“It’s not like I thought the result should have been different – they were the better team on the day and they deserved to win the football game. But I know that a lot was made from the fact that you could see I was really upset and I have no regrets in that.
“I wasn’t the only one that cared, but I cared about my own performance and I really felt that I could have done much better.”
RSNG Are you motivated by envy in the way that a lot of people are?
STEFON DIGGS “I wouldn’t call it envy – you shouldn’t be envious of something you didn’t work hard enough to achieve in the first place. You should feel anger.
“I guess that was just as much a part of it – anger in me that the prize was someone else’s, but it wasn’t envy because I didn’t want that prize. You get what you deserve, and we got beat!”
All of the right things need to be done even before you go onto the practice field, never mind into a game
**RSNG When did you realize that you wanted to be an NFL player? **
STEFON DIGGS “I think I was as young as five when my dad started playing football with me, throwing and catching and trying to teach me what football really was. I loved it from then on, I wanted to learn more, I always wanted to have a ball close to me and I played as much as I could all of the time.
“When I got to high school in Maryland, I was playing receiver, cornerback, running back, mainly. I progressed to wide receiver and that was a big moment for me. I went from being the same level as others to the best. It was big.
“In life you need to find that edge, because when you do it can propel your confidence and your belief to big places.”
RSNG You went on to gain a five-star rating as a player which meant that you were rated as one of the best in America. Why did you choose Maryland ahead of everyone else?
STEFON DIGGS “The first thing I thought about was my academic life. During my upbringing I was always taught to keep my feet on the ground and prepare for the fact things may not go to plan, so having a back-up is important, and that was my education.
“At Maryland as well I just had so many great people around me, especially Coach Edsall. I know a lot of people say this sort of stuff, but truly I wouldn’t be where I am without the things he and his staff taught me. I will always be so grateful to them.”
RSNG Keenan McCardell spent 17 years as an NFL wide receiver and then you had him as your wide receiver coach at Maryland. That must have been unbelievable for you?
STEFON DIGGS “You know, that’s just another great addition to your learning tools and your development when you’re trying to get the best out of yourself. Coach McCardell taught me so much in such a short space of time and helped me tune into what being a wide receiver really meant.
“Once you know what your state of mind should be, and the way you should carry yourself, the way you should be every day when you’re coming to work – because that’s what it is, it’s a job.
“All of the right things need to be done even before you go onto the practice field, never mind into a game. The game should not even be on your mind before you're ready and prepared.
“It was taught you can always do better, right up to the day you retire.”
I will always love the people in Minnesota… I had five good years there and they were so good to me
RSNG What do you like about playing in Buffalo and also, what was it like being there in stadiums without fans during Covid?
STEFON DIGGS “I love being in Buffalo… the fans are so welcoming. And the Bills Mafia are vital to our chances of being successful – we need them as much as they need us.
“My team-mates and staff are amazing and there’s such an incredible team spirit here. We may have some downs, but no team is going to cruise through a season. When there are any setbacks, we pick ourselves up as a team and we discuss how we can get back on track.”
RSNG Do you look back happily on your time at Minnesota?
STEFON DIGGS “Haha! Of course. Sure I have some regrets, but I loved my time there – they were really great people and I had five fantastic years there. I scored 30 touchdowns and in my final two seasons – I managed to break the 1,000-yard barrier. They were good times.”
RSNG How has your game adapted at Buffalo?
STEFON DIGGS “Here, the game is less running and more pass-offense. That helps my game so much more - I got nine touchdowns in my first season and over 1,500 yards receiving.
“I’m in a good place and so is my game, but the hard work has to carry on every day.”
WHAT NEXT? For more on the pros of the NFL, check out the RSNG interview with defensive demon Bishard ‘Budda’ Baker.