Maryland’s Stefon Diggs is almost aggressively humble, turning individual questions into general answers about the Terrapins football team. Ask about the Heisman Trophy? He says he would prefer to win games instead. What about leaving early for the NFL? He says he’s spending four years in College Park. He’s getting better. He receives great blocks. He’s taking things one day at a time. Squeezing anything but a perfect, by-the-book response from Diggs might be more difficult than actually dragging the elusive wide receiver down to the ground.
And based on Coach Randy Edsall’s comments Monday during Maryland football media day, it seems the Terrapins are making a concerted effort to keep Diggs grounded. Only a sophomore, he has rapidly become the face of the Maryland football program. He appears on many lists of the nation’s best players and by all accounts could be a Heisman candidate in the near future. That’s what happens when you break the ACC freshman record for all-purpose yardage. But guidance is still needed.
“Knowing that with his abilities, if he’s doing things a certain way, other guys will follow and fall in line with the things he’s doing,” Edsall said. “It’s always going to be a work in progress because they’re young people and there’s a lot of temptation. I think he can be an outstanding leader.
“I think he can only get better because he’s in those positions, because he wants to be great in everything he does. Did a great job in the classroom his first year, and again the sky’s the limit for him, but again we’re going to do everything we can to develop him holistically so he doesn’t get a stigma — like other people — attached to him.”
Obviously, the exploits of Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel come to mind. Hearing Edsall invoke those concerns, seemingly without prompting, is somewhat surprising. Since matriculating to College Park, Diggs has been a model citizen publicly, the only blemish a minor disciplinary issue that caused him to miss a portion of one spring practice. His Twitter account still contains an intriguing mix of mini-rants and vague motivational quotes, but he’s come a long way from his pre-Maryland days in February 2012, when an off-color tweet about the NBA’s Jeremy Lin caused a minor outcry.
“As you get a lot of exposure, a lot of people looking at you, you have to take it more so how you carry yourself, how people view you,” Diggs said. “You have to worry about your image. I don’t want to offend nobody, and I don’t rub anybody the wrong way. That’s a part of growing up.
“I listen to the older people who talk to me. I call them my old heads, people with a lot of wisdom. They’ll teach you a lot if you listen.”
Expectations are high for the Good Counsel alum and justifiably so. During a year when five Maryland quarterbacks took first-team snaps during practice, and four — including a linebacker — appeared in games during an injury-marred 4-8 season, Diggs provided a beacon of hope. He led the team in receiving yards and touchdowns by a wide margin and returned two kickoffs for scores.
There’s nothing to suggest Diggs can’t exceed his freshman-year production. He gained 10 pounds this summer and diversified his positioning, learning to play the outside in addition to the slot. He’s also surrounded by better weapons. Junior college transfer Deon Long could make the NFL leap this year with a solid season, and Nigel King might be Maryland’s biggest breakout candidate. Both will make it extremely difficult for opposing defenses to key solely on Diggs.
Despite all this, Diggs was not selected to the preseason all-ACC team on offense, earning a spot merely as a specialist. Does that fuel him?
“Not necessarily, considering the position I put my team in,” Diggs said in perfectly political form. “I didn’t feel like I deserved it. I did okay for my team, but we didn’t win the games. I feel as if I have to do better. Me and my teammates, I feel as if I’m going to demand better from them [and] they’re going to demand better from me. We’re going to get better each and every day.”
Diggs was also elected to Maryland’s leadership council, representing the wide receivers and serving as the position’s de facto captain, responsible for leading the entire group.
“As a young man, I feel as if it’s all about progressing,” Diggs said. “I may have had to mature a little faster than others but no worries. I took it on full steam and led by example off the field.”
More on college football:
Jason Reid: Maryland soon to be swimming with the big fish
DC Sports Bog: Stefon Diggs has a Tupac haircut