- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Homecoming games, huge for high schools and some college programs, have never seriously caught on in the buttoned-down National Football League. But there’s little doubt Sunday’s Redskins-Vikings tilt at FedEx Field amounts to a homecoming for Minnesota wideout Stefon Diggs.

Diggs, a prep star at Montgomery County’s Our Lady of Good Counsel High School, turned down offers in 2012 from football schools like Ohio State, USC and Florida to stay in the area and play for the University of Maryland.

In three years as a Terrapin, Diggs finished with 150 receptions, 2,227 yards and 14 touchdowns. He was a Second-Team All-Big Ten member in 2014.

He never won a bowl game, but Maryland provided Diggs an opportunity to springboard himself to the next level of football while staying close to his family.

Family means a lot to Diggs. As his Vikings prepare to take on the Redskins, he’s received well over 30 ticket requests, and he’s looking forward to playing in front of a hometown crowd — even if that crowd’s rooting for the other team.

“My family will be there,” Diggs said. “That’s the only thing that’s important to me.”

Diggs, drafted with the 146th-overall pick in 2015, is enjoying a breakout sophomore campaign. In seven games, the former Terp has 546 yards and 2 touchdowns. He’s developed into an integral part of the Vikings’ offense.

“Stefon’s done good,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “He’s a good, hard worker. He’s been a fun guy to coach. He works real hard, he makes some good catches. He’s good with run-after-catch. So, we’ve been very, very pleased with Stefon and we hope that the future is going to continue to be bright for him.”

Part of Diggs’ success is due in part to his ability to prepare for specific defensive situations. Diggs said that he attacks each day with the mindset that he has work to complete. He has to fine-tune his cuts, get faster, get stronger.

That was drilled into him by former Vikings’ offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who abruptly resigned on Nov. 2. Diggs said that there was absolutely no indication that Turner, who coached the Redskins from 1994 to 2000, was about to walk away from the team. But Diggs credits Turner as one person who really helped him early on in his success.

“He’s the [offensive coordinator], so you know those guys are big on preparing,” Diggs said. “They watch a ton of film, so as far as that kind of thing and as far as attacking each day, just trying to get in and get things done rather than doing a whole bunch and not getting stuff done. [He taught me to] be efficient.”

“He definitely helped me a lot as far as he’s seen a lot of football in his time in the NFL, and I have the utmost respect for him as a coach and as a person,” Diggs said. “So I took heed to everything that he said moving forward with my career as a young player.”

Diggs and his Vikings enter Washington in a state of turmoil. Mired in a three-game losing streak with a fairly-new offensive coordinator in Pat Shurmur, Minnesota is desperate to get back on a winning track as quickly as possible. They are still on top of a tight NFC North with a 5-3 record.

“Every win is a needed win and all of them won’t shake the way you want them to,” Diggs said. “But we’re looking forward to this game and we look forward to coming out the way we want it to come out.”

The matchup will provide Diggs with an interesting test. As the Vikings’ most targeted receiver, Diggs may see heavy doses of cornerback Josh Norman, one of the NFL’s top corners. Diggs reiterates the importance of preparation.

“He’s a very talented individual,” Diggs said of Norman. “It’s all about preparing. These guys that you go against each and every week, you’re going to have to prepare. You have got to watch film on it, you have got tot see what he likes to do [and] what he doesn’t like to do. It’s just all about preparation.”

But the upcoming game means more to Diggs than just a potential opportunity to win or test himself against a talented player. It’s an opportunity for him to return home to what’s familiar and see people he loves.

“I’m definitely excited to see my mom and just getting back to playing [in] my old town,” Diggs said. “I’m just excited.” 


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