CHICAGO – Aside from Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, an early favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, Maryland wide receiver Stefon Diggs may have had the most heralded preseason of any player at the Big Ten Media Days on Monday.
He strolled the hallways with his teammates before he was scheduled to speak at the Hilton, wearing a grey suit and a cherry tie. He let his teammate Jeremiah Johnson take the stage first, taking a picture with his cell phone to properly document their first true Big Ten experience together.
When Diggs took the stage, reporters flocked. Diggs was placed on the Biletnikoff, Maxwell and Hornung watch lists earlier this summer — and before Monday morning’s event, he was selected as one of ten conference players to watch.
Now in his junior season, a more mature player who has overcome a disastrous injury, Diggs understands summer accolades are the cheapest kind. Ohio State Coach Urban Meyer, who had tried to recruit Diggs to Columbus two years ago out of Good Counsel, called him “one of the best players in the country,” on Monday.
“I bring a lot positive energy, enthusiasm to the game. I’m a real charismatic person,” Diggs told one reporter.
“I don’t think it’s your personality that everybody is talking about. I’m talking about on the field. How fast are you?” the reporter responded.
“I don’t think I’m as fast as anybody else,” Diggs replied with a smile. “I’m okay. I’m decent.”
Diggs won’t sneak up on anyone this fall, even after he missed seven games last season with a broken leg. He still finished second on the team with 34 receptions for 587 yards and three touchdowns, but it was a far cry from what he accomplished in 2012 when he had one of the best freshman seasons in school history.
Now he’s looking to have a breakout campaign in his third year, although there’s no need to re-invent himself. He hasn’t missed a day of rehab since the injury, he said, and Diggs believes he’s a faster player now.
“It was a real humbling experience. …I had one of my legs taken from me,” Diggs said. “It teaches you to cherish the little things.”
Diggs has made small progress since rejoining the team late in the spring, when his activity was limited to strictly warming up. Now fully healthy, he should benefit from playing at multiple receiver positions opposite Deon Long, who Diggs noted as a legitimate vertical threat. The team is also expecting C.J. Brown to be at his best after two injury-filled seasons.
Brown will have the most talented position group on the team at his disposal, and that unit will be led by a grateful Diggs.
“It almost brought me to tears just to be able to put my cleats back on,” Diggs said of rejoining team last spring. “It’s been a long time coming.”