GAITHERSBURG, Md. — Throughout his youth, Trevon Diggs made a conscious effort to avoid being labeled as the kid brother of a high-profile athlete.
Diggs — the younger brother of Stefon Diggs, a standout at Maryland who now plays for the Minnesota Vikings — wanted to become a star player in his own right.
Stefon went to a private high school. Trevon decided to go to a public one. Stefon stayed close to home and attended Maryland. Trevon felt it was time to spread his wings and go out of state.
“Very early on when we had a couple of choices for high school, he just wanted to make his own way,” Diggs mother, Stephanie Diggs, told SEC Country. “He didn’t just want to be looked at as the baby brother of Stefon. He’s just as talented, if not more. It was very important for him to make his own way and create his own legacy.”
Tyree Spinner has known Diggs since his days playing youth football. He coached Diggs his first two years at Wootton High School (Rockville, Md.), and his junior and senior seasons at The Avalon School (Gaithersburg, Md.). He too noticed early on that the younger Diggs wanted to be his own man.
“The thing that stood out the most is that he always wanted to make his own track marks,” Spinner told SEC Country. “He never wanted to follow Stef. He wanted to make his own way. He didn’t want to ride on the coattails of Stefon. He wanted to write his own story.”
In writing his own story, Diggs developed into one of the top athletes in the country. At 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, he played both defensive back and wide receiver at The Avalon School, earning offers from the likes of Clemson, Florida, Georgia and Florida State.
A consensus four-star prospect, Diggs caught 78 passes for 1,008 yards and 15 touchdowns as a junior in 2014. He upped his production as a senior, racking up 1,269 receiving yards.
He picked Alabama over many others, and will likely play wide receiver for the Crimson Tide. But he’s open to playing either side of the ball.
“I just want to do whatever the coach tells me, and if I get the opportunity, I’ll make the best of it,” Diggs told SEC Country.
“It made me want to grind harder and do everything for him”
Aron Diggs was the man who introduced Trevon and his brothers to football, but he never got the chance to see his sons blossom into the men and star players they’ve become. Diggs died in January 2008 from congestive heart failure.
Trevon, the youngest of the Diggs’ children, was in fifth grade.
“It was very hard on him because he was the baby,” Stephanie said. “My husband spoiled him the most. He got the most attention because my husband was sick for five years before passing. So he was at home with Trevon doing the homework and he was their coaches. He got the extra love during the time my husband was sick.”
The responsibility of keeping Trevon on track with football fell to his older brothers Stefon, Aron McDonald and Darez Diggs. Stephanie had to learn, too.
“To be perfectly honest, in the beginning, (his father) took care of everything in terms of football,” Stephanie said. “So it was a big adjustment because he did everything when it came to the kids and being there. I just had to learn about football. It was hard with boys trying to keep them out of trouble. He laid a good foundation. My work ethic in taking care of them showed that you can get through anything with love and family and everybody working together. When I buried him, they were very depressed because it was like the bottom fell out. They were so used to that structure with school and football and practicing.”
Along with learning football, Stephanie became both mother and father of the Diggs household.
“She’s been tremendous,” Trevon said. “I don’t know how she does it. Raising all these boys, working and providing for us. She’s just an amazing woman.”
Looking back on it, Trevon has used his father’s passing as a motivating factor in his life rather than something that derails it.
“It was just a hard time,” Trevon said. “Anytime you lose a family member, it’s going to be hard on you for a while. But as I grew up, I took it more as a positive thing and not a negative. It made me want to grind harder and do everything for him.”
“He was like an encyclopedia”
Most families have that unsung hero — the person who isn’t often mentioned in the stories but played a vital role in the success of an individual or the family as a whole.
Porsche Green is that person for the Diggs. With Aron Diggs passing away, Stephanie continued to work in order to provide for her family.
Her job as a stewardess for Amtrak meant traveling from New York to Boston, and often being away for three days at a time.
Green, Stephanie’s only daughter, had to fill in those gaps, being both the big sister and serving a motherly role to her younger brothers, Trevon and Stefon.
“I couldn’t have done it without her,” Stephanie said. “She was here with them, not out with high school friends. She was here cooking and cleaning. She made sure they did their homework. She has a joke where she says, ‘This is my last one I’m sending off to school in Tre.’”
Green’s teenage years were spent caring for her brothers, and making sure their mother had piece of mind in knowing they were safe. She looks back on it as a special time that helped all of them grow closer.
“It was a fun time because we didn’t have a lot of parental control around so we got to do what we wanted to do,” Green said with a smile. “I’m very motherly and tried to make sure they were doing the right things so they wouldn’t get in trouble even though they had the time and space to do so.”
Green recalls Trevon wanting to do everything his older brothers did. When he was too young to play, Trevon would take his older brother’s football helmets and run around the house, often leaving marks on the wall or sprinting up the stairs. But even as he was young, Green sensed that Trevon would grow up to be a quiet and shy child, which she says is the “exact opposite of Stefon.”
“I don’t want to embarrass him, but he was a very inquisitive kid. He always had random facts and knowledge,” Green said of young Trevon. “He was like an encyclopedia, but you would never guess that. He plays the smart side off, and you just think he’s a jock. He’s very quiet and likes to keep to himself. He’s not cocky, very humble. He’s kind of the exact opposite of Stefon. He really is. He’s very shy, and he’s really good, but you wouldn’t know it because he’s not going to do a lot of boasting. A lot of the time we’ll see him just staring off at the wall thinking about things.”
But what made him like that? Stephanie chimes in.
“Probably because the boisterous child takes up all of the attention,” Stephanie said while laughing. “Stefon is like over the top, and he’s just quiet. They’re like at the other end of the spectrum. One child likes all of the attention. The other one, not so much.”
Added Green, “Tre is very observant. He learns more that way. Stefon is like ‘I have to get in there and do it, and put all of the attention on me.’ Tre is like ‘I’m going to sit back and see what I can learn from the situation before I jump in.'”
“After my father died, he basically stepped up and taught me everything I know about football and life”
As different as their personalities are, Stefon and Trevon have an unbreakable bond that was only strengthened by their father’s death. Green eventually moved for college, leaving Stefon and Trevon as the only two kids in the house.
Stephanie remembers speaking to her son about the role he needed to play in his younger brother’s life.
“When Stefon was a teenager, I sat down and talked with him and said, ‘Look, you have to set good examples. He’s watching you. He wants to do everything you do,’” Stephanie said. “After we had that conversation, Stefon flourished in the role of taking care of Trevon. He stayed on him about doing school work, practicing. That was pretty much why he stayed and went to Maryland. He could have gone anywhere, but he wanted to be around to be hands on with his brother.”
Coming out of Good Counsel High School (Olney, Md.), Stefon Diggs held offers from Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan, Florida State and any other college football power one could name. He was rated as a top-10 overall prospect and the No. 2 receiver nationally, but picked Maryland over all of those behemoths for one simple reason.
“I wanted to help my little brother make good decisions,” Stefon Diggs told Mark Craig of the Star Tribune. “We wouldn’t have had anybody to watch over him. I wasn’t that far from home, but if my mom called me and told me he was acting up, I can come home and have a conversation with him.”
The love and support Stefon has provided throughout the years isn’t lost on Trevon. He considers his big brother to be one of his heroes.
“After my father died, he basically stepped up and taught me everything I know about football and life,” Trevon said. “He’s been a tremendous help to me. Every time he comes home, as soon as he get off the plane, we’re hitting the field or doing something football related. We’ll be out there until 3 o’clock in the morning sometimes just grinding. He’s been a big help.”
As the two have grown into young adults, Stephanie said they’ve grown even closer. Stefon remains only a phone call or a text message away if Trevon ever needs him.
“I think it’s a beautiful relationship. Stefon takes that role very seriously,” Stephanie said. “Trevon isn’t quite as competitive as Stefon, but Stefon pushes him. They compete against each other, and I think Trevon has gotten even better through that. I think it’s a wonderful sort of brother-father and brother-brother relationship because he’s able to step up and push him. A couple of times Trevon got out of hand as a teenager, and Stefon came right down from Maryland and talked to him to get him straight.”
“I’m just going to work my ass off”
Alabama first contacted Diggs around his freshman year of high school. It was former outside linebacker coach Lance Thompson who made the initial connection, but with Thompson moving on to Auburn, his replacement, Tosh Lupoi, picked things up around Diggs’ junior year.
“I’ve known coach Lupoi since I was little because he was recruiting my brother to go to Cal,” Diggs said. “He was always cool with my mom so it was an easy transition. That helped open the door for the relationships with the other coaches.”
Stephanie knew all along that she wanted her son to end up at Alabama. After experiencing the recruiting gauntlet with Stefon, Stephanie had a checklist of things she wanted in a university for Trevon. Alabama met all of the requirements.
“When I went down there, they blew me away with the whole set up in terms of academics, with the facilities, the coaching, getting the freshman acclimated down there,” Stephanie said. “The whole experience was probably one of the most organized institutions I’ve ever been to.”
Diggs committed to Alabama in November 2015, and faxed in his letter of intent on National Signing Day. He was impressed with the work ethic everyone showed, and how players are pushed to reach their potential.
Spinner, Diggs’ high school coach, believes he is just scratching the surface of what his potential could be. Diggs is long and lanky, and hasn’t reached his peak physically. That’ll change once he hits Alabama’s strength and conditioning program.
Spinner thinks Diggs has the ability to play and contribute early at Alabama.
“Once he puts on about 15-20 pounds of muscle, then he’ll be able to run any route across the middle and stretch a defense,” Spinner said. “His speed is good now, but once he develops his core and running mechanics, he’ll be able to blow past kids. He runs a 4.47 and that’s without training. When he trains and learns how to run, he’s going to shock a lot of people with his speed. He’s smooth, he’s deceptive.”
Diggs has already seen improvement in the months he’s been following Alabama’s workout and nutrition plan. He didn’t see a lot of press-man coverage in high school as teams often had two players assigned to him.
“I feel like I’ve improved a lot on my routes and my releases,” Diggs said. “I feel like I know a lot more. My biggest thing is working on releases because I’m not that big so people are going to try to put their hands on me. I work on getting off press (coverage) a lot. If I knew what I know now back then, I’d be a lot better.”
Getting on the field this coming season at wide receiver won’t be easy. Alabama returns Calvin Ridley, ArDarius Stewart, Robert Foster, Cam Sims and others to what could be the most talented and deepest receiver group in the country.
Diggs is ready for the challenge.
“I’m just going to work my ass off,” Diggs said. “Wherever I fit in and wherever coach puts me, that’s where I’ll be.”