Mar’Sean Diggs can’t seem to nail down his favorite memory from his time growing up with Vikings star receiver, Minneapolis Miracle man and big brother Stefon.

“There are just so many,” said Mar’Sean, one of the undrafted rookies trying out for a roster spot during the Vikings’ three-day rookie minicamp this weekend.

There are, of course, the many, many football memories from watching Stefon when he was Rivals.com’s No. 2 receiver in the country at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Montgomery County, Md.

“He was lights-out great,” Mar’Sean said. “The best was they played a red team. I forget the name. Some team out of Florida his senior year. He went off on those guys and won the game.”

Then there’s a special memory from when they first met. When their father, Aron, brought them together. Stefon was 13 and Mar’Sean 11.

“My dad bought me a pair of shoes,” Mar’Sean said. “He brought Stef with him and had Stef give me the shoes. He told Stef, ‘This is your little brother.’ ”

Mar’Sean smiles at the memory. Then he nails down his favorite memory of Stefon. A bittersweet one that came not long after they met, when Stefon was 14 and Mar’Sean 12.

It was 2008. Aron, a larger-than-life presence at 6-4, 260 pounds, was just 39 years old. But he knew he didn’t have long to live as he struggled with congestive heart failure.

“It was up to Stefon to be the father figure,” Mar’Sean said.

Before he died, Aron told Stefon it was up to him to help his mom, Stephanie, look after his sister, Dalaini, and younger brothers. Trevon Diggs, another younger brother, plays defensive back at Alabama.

“The best thing I can say about Stefon is when our father passed, Stefon took on that father role from then on,” Mar’Sean said. “He’s been like a brother but more of a father to us.

“He just took us under his wing, knowing we didn’t have a father figure. Just took on that role, basically. Guiding us, providing for us, being there when we needed him. Everything. Being a brother and a father. That’s tough. That’s a lot to ask of somebody that young.”

The resemblance between Mar’Sean and Stefon is plain to see. They share the same facial expressions, the same laugh. And, according to Mar’Sean …

“The same hands,” he said. “People say I catch the ball really well for a DB. I think I catch it really well for anybody. I played receiver in high school a little bit.”

Little brother cracked up laughing when asked if he’s faster than Stefon.

“He’s definitely faster,” Mar’Sean said.

But Mar’Sean is bigger at 6-1, 199.

He played strong safety at UAB. In 26 games, he had 99 tackles, three interceptions, 3 ½ tackles for loss and a forced fumble.

He had no illusions of being drafted, but also said, “I knew somebody would give me a chance to prove I belong in the NFL.”

The first team on that list was Stefon’s employer. The Vikings, who are looking for depth at safety, tried Mar’Sean out at free safety Friday.

“When my agent told me the Vikings wanted to try me out, that’s all I ever wanted was a chance,” he said. “This is the highlight for me in football so far because my dream is to play in the NFL.”

The Vikings had two on-field sessions Friday. There were 12 draft picks, 10 undrafted rookies who were signed after the draft, seven young veterans and 37 rookies trying out.

Of all those players, Mar’Sean and Marshall running back Anthony Anderson, a fellow rookie tryout hopeful, were the last players to leave the field Friday morning.

Older brother would have been proud.

“He told me, ‘Just keep your head down and work,’ ” Mar’Sean said. “He said I’m here on business. Right now, this is a business trip.”

 

 

Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL. E-mail: mcraig@startribune.com