Stefon Diggs brings same electricity, new leadership into summer


(John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Stefon Diggs concluded his postgame interview Friday night and started walking toward a folding table pitched about 40 yards away, where fans had begun lining up to meet Maryland’s star. A straggling reporter approached and asked for one final question. Diggs stopped to oblige. That’s when the procession of children shadowing Diggs began to get restless.

“Aww,” they said impatiently as Diggs waved the young fans through. “I’ll meet you over there,” he replied, before turning and offering a handshake.

“I love kids,” Diggs said to the reporter with his typical aw-shucks humility. “It’s no big deal. That’s good and bad, hopefully. It’s worth something to them, hopefully, I guess.”

Such is the star life Diggs leads this spring, and will continue to enjoy for at least two more seasons in College Park. He makes defenses seem childish, then afterward entertains hordes of children. His 172.4 all-purpose yards per game last season ranked eighth nationally. The ACC named him rookie of the week three times and specialist of the week once. He caught six touchdown passes, returned two and threw one more. All that as a  freshman on a team whose quarterbacks meeting room was more of an infirmary.

Diggs brought the razzle-dazzle into Friday’s spring game, catching eight passes for 159 yards, including a 51-yard screen play that he turned into a combination magic show and touchdown. Afterward, Coach Randy Edsall announced Diggs’s election to the team’s 10-man leadership council, responsible for representing each position. He wants the receiver to evolve into a more vocal and confident presence.

“I think that’s one of the big things for him, is to be a leader and to step out and make sure that he’s doing what he’s supposed to,” Edsall said. “What it does is it puts more responsibility on him, which is a good thing. I think it’s something he can handle and something he can relish doing.”

Diggs said he added 10 pounds of muscle since last season’s finale against North Carolina, and he aims to pack on another 10 by August. The tackles Diggs evaded Friday stemmed from this weight gain, he said.

With his brother Trevon seated among the 8,200 fans, Diggs was his standard shifty self. The 51-yard yard jaunt hearkened back to his electrifying runs against Virginia, or Wake Forest, or West Virginia.

“He’s a playmaker and all I really want to do is complement him and make plays myself,” running back Brandon Ross said. “If you can get the run and the pass doing together, you can be a dangerous offense. It’s no doubt we’ve got playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. I just want to run the ball, keep the clock moving, give them a chance to make plays.”

Diggs is also Maryland’s most experienced healthy wide receiver, with Marcus Leak’s broken toe still healing. This means he’s the group’s rock, too.

“This spring, it’s just keep playing, but play for the other guys and try to lead them in the right direction,” Diggs said. “If players are getting down, who are they going to point to and look up to. I know I’m still a freshman, but I still have to lead my team in the right direction. When things are looking down, pick them up, say it’ll be alright and keep pushing together as a team.

“You get down, but you have to pick your teammates up. Good things are eventually going to happen. There’s no way around that for your team if you practice well enough.”

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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Alex Prewitt · April 14, 2013