This week's FRONTPAGE feature puts the spotlight on NFL player Stefon Diggs, who will have all eyes on him at this year's Super Bowl.
On December 28, 2020, Stefon Diggs broke and set the single-season receiving record for the Buffalo Bills on Monday Night Football. The pass itself was only for about 20 yards, but Diggs, catching the ball right above three defenders, turned forward and raced to the endzone with his opponents struggling to keep up. As the defenders sprinted hard, Diggs seemed to effortlessly glide away from them. He was that much faster. As he crossed the endzone, he looked back and pointed at one of the defenders who couldn’t catch him. That’s how confident he was.
Diggs broke that record against the New England Patriots, my favorite NFL team, and during our interview, I brought up the personal beef I’ve had with him since that year. It encapsulates the absurdity of being a sports fan — the fact that someone you have never met or spoken to can ruin your day by simply doing their job well.
The record was broken at the end of Diggs’ first season with the Bills. He had left the team that drafted him in the fifth round, the Minnesota Vikings, under acrimonious circumstances, and that game, and the season overall, was a declaration to the world that he was one of the best wide receivers in the league.
Diggs still feels like he has to prove himself each day, but never more so than that season when so few believed he would be great.
“I’m telling you, everybody was like, ‘That shit ain’t going to work out. It ain’t going to. It’s going to be trash. Stefon Diggs barely was a thousand yard receiver.’”
Diggs arrived a bit late to our interview because he was just getting out of practice, and took the call on his phone wearing a SAINT Mxxxxxx x Denim Tears Graffiti Hoodie. It was hard to tell whether the practice had gone well or badly, because he comes across like someone whose confidence and mood is not easily shaken by small misfortunes.
In part, this stems from great misfortunes early in life. Diggs lost his father when he was 14 years old, which forced him to take on some of the responsibility of looking after his younger brothers, Darez and Trevon. He was one of the best athletes in high school at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Montgomery County, Maryland, and was ranked the second best wide receiver prospect in the nation.
Diggs had offers to attend the big name colleges, including Auburn, USC, Ohio State, and Florida, but wanted to stay close to his family, and he decided to play for the University of Maryland. His first year in college went well, but then he got hurt, landing him in the fifth round of the NFL Draft.
“I’ve done some good things and some things that didn’t go right, but I never lost my confidence,” he says. “And that’s something – that the trials and tribulations and adversity didn’t break my confidence or my spirit. It motivated me, because I knew who I was. I knew who I was as a man and I always tried to represent myself the best way I could.”
This desire to prove himself as best as possible is naturally expressed with his fashion. Diggs has always had an eye for fashion, even when he couldn’t afford to wear the clothes that would support it. Kanye West’s polo era inspired him to change his look back in the gangster rap era when everyone was wearing baggy jeans and long shirts: “I’m always drawn into a different way of looking at things so I kind of got away from the big shirts.”
Other personal style icons include Wale, Pharrell, and Dennis Rodman, people who were pushing boundaries not for the sake of being provocative, but because, like him, that effort is always in service of him representing his full self as best as he can.
“Pushing those boundaries is all about being comfortable,” Diggs explains. “I feel like people appreciate you when you’re being yourself. When you’re trying to be something else, that’s when you get a lot of hate and a lot of shade. If you consistently push those boundaries and you’re comfortable in your own skin, you can take a little backlash.”
When football was temporarily taken away from him due to the ankle injury he suffered in college, fashion became a way for him to take his mind off the ordeal.
“Fashion took my focus off of it because I started having little projects, messing with my sneakers and stuff. I took that time to really, I mean, not reinvent myself, but to create a new version. I was the same person, but I was a better version of myself.”
This improved Diggs maintains a 70/30 rule. “When I’m doing football, I’m doing football. But when I have idle time, I need to learn more.”
This means reading, traveling, and learning new skills to improve himself as a person. Improving his fashion, and giving his brothers advice on their own as well — which sounds like the same advice he would give himself.
“I told my brothers, ‘You got to learn your style. You got to learn what fits you well. You got to learn what makes sense for you because everything that makes sense for me ain’t going to make sense for you.’”
Jackets are something Diggs will never give up, even though he has a countless number of them. We talked about our favorite jackets, the need to sometimes have multiples of the same jacket, and what the requirements for a good jacket are. And through a small, insignificant conversation about jackets, so much of who Diggs is and what he values, comes out.
He doesn’t like to wear the color black, and dissuaded one of his brothers from wearing it so much, because black is too easy of a color. He sees it as lazy, “I feel like black is lazy, and nothing about me is lazy or safe,” he says/”I like colors.” As far as what qualities make a great jacket, Diggs says it all comes down to color scheme, fit, and being able to be low-key while wearing it. Comfort is not necessary.
“If it looks nice I’m putting it on. So it’s more how it lays on me because a jacket that looked good on me might not look good on somebody else. It looked good on the mannequin but it might not look good on me. So how it falls on me, material and the color scheme.”
And that is the essence of Stefon Diggs. Everything he does and everything he loves helps him be a fuller version of himself. He says that Buffalo is a match made in heaven because the people there have embraced him as he is. He goes out on the field every week not to personally ruin the days of opposing fans, but to show what he’s capable of and to prove himself to himself as much as to those watching. He wears what he wears because it fits his body, his personality, not for the brands or price tags, and he does it with a confidence that can’t be shaken because he knows who he is and who he wants to be.