Scott Turner had just gotten the job as receivers coach at the University of Pittsburgh in 2010. He was at Good Counsel High School, a football powerhouse in Olney, Md., looking at a couple of juniors the Panthers had their eye on.
“I was watching their highlight tapes, but this other guy, No. 7, really stood out,” said Turner, the Vikings’ quarterbacks coach. “I asked one of the coaches, ‘Who’s that guy?’ and they said, ‘Oh, that’s Stefon Diggs. He’s only a sophomore.’ ”
According to Turner, 16-year-old Stefon looked a lot like the 21-year-old Stefon, the 6-foot, 191-pounder who has turned heads as a rookie fifth-round draft pick of the Vikings.
“I had a chance to bump into him, with the way the recruiting rules are,” Turner said. “And we verbally offered him a scholarship right then.”
As a sophomore?
“Yeah, as a sophomore,” Turner said. “You would have, too.”
That was one of the first — if not the first — major college offers Diggs received. But more would come. In waves. In fact, Diggs might be one of the few NFL players who was a bigger celebrity in high school.
“He ended up going to a bunch of football camps before his junior year and ended up with like 95 offers,” Turner said. “All the experts rated him as the No. 2 receiver in the country that year behind [Dorial] Green-Beckham.”
Green-Beckham, a rookie second-round draft pick of the Titans, has three catches for 35 yards and two touchdowns in four games this season. Diggs made his NFL debut at Denver two weeks ago and tied the team record for most catches (six) by a rookie in his first game.
Pitt didn’t have a shot at Diggs in 2012. But neither did Florida, Southern California, Ohio State and, well, everybody else who was enamored of the consensus five-star recruit and the 23 touchdowns he scored as a senior.
“I wanted to stay home and go to Maryland because I’m really the man of my house,” Diggs said. “We lost our father when I was 14. Somebody had to be there, so I had to take it and put that on my shoulders.”
Aron Diggs was the man who introduced the Diggs boys to football. He was 6-3, 220 pounds. A tough, no-nonsense, hard-to-please man who coached them at the youth level and knew they were heading toward some special places.
But in his last months, Aron had to get updates on his boys’ highlights from the boys’ mother, Stephanie, while she visited him in the hospital. Aron died of congestive heart failure in January 2008. He was 39.
Diggs has an older sister, Porsche, and two younger brothers, Darez andTrevon. Darez is a first-year safety at Iowa Western Junior College.
“Big, physical,” Stefon said of Darez. “He’s going to hit you, now. And he’s got good ball skills.”
ButTrevon, 17, might end up being the best of the three Diggs brothers. He’s a senior receiver at Avalon, a private school in Gaithersburg, Md. And, yes, the recruiters are swarming him.
“He’s a baller,” Stefon said. “He’s about an inch taller than me and I gave him all my knowledge now. If you got the knowledge at that age, you’re cheating basically. And we shoot a lot of video and watch it back and forth on our phones so I can help him.”
Stefon had Trevon in mind when he held firm against the high pressure of being recruited by every major college in the country.
“I wanted to help my little brother make good decisions,” Diggs said. “We wouldn’t have had anybody to watch over him. I wasn’t that far from home, but if my mom [Stephanie] called me and told me he was acting up, I can come home and have a conversation with him.”
Trevon is looking at Maryland. And Alabama. And Clemson. And West Virginia. And …
“He likes a lot of schools,” Stefon said. “He can go anywhere he wants.”