“He cheated!” Diggs shouted with a laugh. “You cheated!”
For nearly three hours on Saturday morning, Diggs circled the pitch where he played youth football two decades before, taking part in drills with the roughly 250 kids who showed up at his “Diggs Day” camp. Along the fence were strewn with Bills gear and parents holding their children’s No. 14 jerseys.
Diggs, who played at Good Counsel High School in Olney, Md., before playing three years at Maryland, said he always intended to host a camp near his hometown, but the effort has been delayed by the pandemic.
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“I wish I could have rolled the ball faster,” he said. “But better late than never.”
Diggs is entering his eighth season in the NFL, where he ranks among the league’s top receivers. In April, Diggs signed a four-year, $96 million contract extension with the Buffalo Bills, who acquired him in a 2020 trade from the Vikings.
“Growing up, I was really trying to see myself in the league and make sure I had some longevity,” Diggs said. “I was going to make sure I did it at the right time.”
Now, Diggs said the camp will be an annual tradition, and he hopes it will only grow. Open to children from 6 years old at 14, camp was free — a staple for Diggs.
“He remembers the struggles of people trying to pay for camps and trying to get extra money to pay for camps and get cleats, and all that stuff of being a football player,” said Diggs’ mother, Stephanie.
“Everyone wants to dream of playing in the NFL,” Diggs said. “Why not give them something to start with?”
Even before reaching the NFL, Diggs had already begun to inspire young footballers.
Among them is Maryland wide receiver Dontay Demus Jr., who was a volunteer coach for Diggs Day. Demus charted a similar path to Diggs – a local wide receiver turned Maryland football star with NFL aspirations. He said he had long idolized Diggs, who is seven years his senior.
“I used to watch Stef’s best moments every day, so it’s nothing I haven’t seen,” Demus said. “She’s a really good role model, and I just take a lot of notes.”
Also in attendance Saturday were some of Diggs’ friends and a handful of family members, including his brother Trevon, who plays cornerback for the Dallas Cowboys.
Younger sibling Diggs, who attended Avalon School in Gaithersburg, Md., before playing college football in Alabama, also racked up a crowd of kids clamoring for photos and autographs. (“My dad really likes the Cowboys,” one said.)
“It’s nice, just knowing the impact we have on the community, just being able to get everybody out, get all the kids out, it’s amazing,” Trevon Diggs said. “So the only thing we have to do is keep going, grow and tap into the youth.”
On Saturday, Stefon Diggs’ impact on the community was clear. In a rotation during camp, he tossed soccer balls spiraling through the air, cheering when kids caught them and handing out high-fives even when they haven’t. He did push-ups, gave pep talks and sat down on the grass to lead a series of stretches.
As he stood behind the stretch lines, the kids craned their heads for a clear view of the NFL star.
“Look over there,” he said with a laugh, pointing to the front of the lines.
It did not work. Many pairs of eyes followed Diggs as he strolled across the turf. The receiver knows his impact, even if he still surprises him sometimes.
“Hopefully we can kind of pay it forward and give not just experience but also knowledge to the kids early on. The sooner the better,” Diggs said. can change lives along the way.”