No singular play, outfit or meme-ified football cleat can define who 27-year-old Stefon Diggs is, what he’s about or what he’s capable of, though he’s used to others trying to dictate his story.
After making a game-winning divisional round playoff catch (affectionately declared the “Minneapolis Miracle”), Stefon’s teammates joked that he had peaked. Then, he posted three straight seasons of 1,000-plus receiving yards, made his first Pro Bowl, was named first-team All-Pro and asserted himself as a top receiving threat on the field.
Stefon, who is from Maryland, was drafted in the fifth round by Minnesota. After playing with multiple quarterbacks and a run-heavy offense throughout five seasons in Minneapolis, he was traded to Buffalo.
There, Stefon caught fire, connecting with the team’s center for 127 receptions and 1,535 yards, both numbers that led the league. The 127 catches, eight of which finished in the endzone, were good for the sixth-most in a single NFL season, and the 1,535 yards were the most ever by a player in his first season with a new team.
In every season he’s been in the league, Stefon has made plays of at least 40 yards, including a game-tying touchdown in his third game as a pro. In 2020, he had at least six catches in every game and made double-digit receptions five different times.
Ever since he got to Buffalo, Stefon’s golden grin and fashion sense have kept cameras locked on him. When he’s not dressed in a signature ‘fit, with a statement jacket or hat, his uniform still shows his personality through customized cleats.
Next season, Stefon will have custom Jumpman cleats to support his game. We caught up with him to discuss his path, his style and joining Jordan Brand. Welcome to the family, Stefon.
What does it feel like to be a part of the Jordan Brand family?
It’s a little bit unreal, coming from where I come from — where people have been lining up for Jordans or camping out for them overnight. I remember camping out for some VIIs. I even did it myself when I was younger. This is both unreal and surreal, to be part of a successful brand that everybody knows and respects.
Jordan Brand has an elite group of athletes. Everyone plays at a high level. I’ll never forget the moment I got the call. I’ve been trying to join the Brand for a year or so, and I was really looking forward to it.
What did Jordans represent to you as a kid, and what was your first pair?
Well, I didn’t have too many. I’m not going to say I had a lot of them. Jordans weren’t a thing that all five of us could get. I used to have a bunch of Air Forces, but I always wanted a pair of Jordans. My mom had gotten me one pair. Recently, the black and gold AJ1s came back out. I remember borrowing them from my sister, even though they were too small. I was like, “I got to get these fits off.”
Just from my point of view, everybody loves the XIs. I love XIs as a staple, but I’m a IV guy. I love to see me in IIIs. My everyday shoe is a pair of Is. I wear Is every day. You won’t catch me in anything else.
Your shoes often have messages and images on them. How have shoes been a way to express yourself?
It’s funny because shoes have always been a key thing, a way to tie the whole outfit together. When you first see somebody, you might see their face or their hat. My mom always told me, “People look at your shoes.” My shoes always had to be clean. Before, I was a clothes guy. I went through my shoe phase. Now, I’m back on my shoe phase. If I get 12 pairs of shoes, I’m trying to wear them all.
What are you looking forward to the most, when it comes to getting your Air Jordan cleats?
I’m definitely looking forward to it based on who I’ve seen wear them in the past. I remember the white and purple XIs. I’ve seen a couple of receivers pull them off and look pretty good on the football field. I was like, “All right, that’s swag. I want to be a part of that one day.” It’s exciting to see Jordans move in cleat form. It’s performance, but it’s also fashion. I look forward to putting my own little spin on them.
I’m mostly looking forward to being a Jordan Brand athlete. I wanted that exclusivity, of being the only person that’s wearing those. Looking nice means a lot to me, but balling means a lot more. I want to represent the Brand well.
You’ve already had some highs and lows in your short career. What have those times taught you about yourself, and how have they equipped you with the knowledge to move forward?
I’m more resilient than anything. I’ve had some highs and lows, I’ve battled injuries, I’ve been in difficult mental spaces with my past team. I learned how to shake it off. I learned how to roll with the punches, for the most part. I understand that I’m an adult now. It’s not always going to be good, you’re going to go through some stuff. And I realize that. I’m a resilient person, I’m not going to give up.
I play for the name on the back of my jersey, just as I play for the name on the front. I always want to put in some work that I can be proud of out there. I’m really serious about what I do. Throughout my career, I’ve shown myself that I can overcome adversity at any given time, whatever is being thrown at me.
You’ve talked about having a chip on your shoulder. How has that changed or remained the same since you put up two 100-catch seasons?
It’s crazy because one of the things that motivated me was practice. I’ve heard stories about MJ being a person who practiced hard. I always took practice super seriously. When people say, “You’re doing too much in practice,” or, “You’re going too hard,” I knew I was doing the right thing. I feel like, if you want to be great, you’re going to take practice seriously. There are guys who try to take my job each and every day. I stay hungry.
Somebody once said that you’d compete to see who could tie their shoes the fastest. Where does your competitiveness come from?
I have no idea. I hate to lose. I think it’s something I was born with because I don’t care what I’m doing, I just don’t want to lose. I don’t want to lose against anybody. The only person I’ll give a W to occasionally is my daughter.
You tweeted back in February, “Gotta tell my story one day…” What are some of the key things you want people to know about your story?
It’ll probably begin with when I first started playing football, finding that love for the game with my older brother and little brother. It would show all of us playing and getting better on the field. The more pivotal part of my story is when I lost my father at the age of 14. I grew up faster than everybody else. When you lose somebody so big in your life, you learn to deal with loss.
After I lost my dad, I ended up going to high school, and then I got college offers. I got injured during my second year of college. In my third year, I got punched in the kidney, and I missed three games. At the time, I said, “I’m going to the league.” The story will go on and on. I’m still writing my story now, so we’ll see. I’m trying to get a Super Bowl win to top it all off.
Do you have any special football memories with your dad from those early days?
I was always trying to make my dad proud because my dad was super serious about football. He wanted my brothers and me to do well. My dad never congratulated anybody, he’d just say, “Good job.” He knew we could always get better.
One day, we were playing the championship game. We ended up winning the game, and there was one play where I ran a kid over. I was so young, so people got pretty excited. My dad was really happy. That was the first time he ever made me smile in a football situation. At that moment, I was like, “I kind of like this sport.” I was happy to have made my dad proud.
Do you have a favorite MJ moment?
I don’t have a specific one. I wish I could go back and watch him day to day or game to game — how he played, moved, prepared and dominated. I had never seen anything like that. He’s the best ever.
There’s a certain style and swagger that comes with being a Jordan Brand athlete. How would you describe that?
When you’re wearing Js, it’s an aesthetic. The Brand picks athletes wisely. I’m looking forward to being a part of that aesthetic.
Jordan Brand has committed to a mission of “action over words” when it comes to supporting the Black community. Why is giving back so important to you?
For me, it’s about the youth. They’re the future. The more you pour into the kids, the more you’ll get back. A lot of them lack guidance or motivation. It’s important to encourage them to get active and to provide them with direction. If you do that, you can help them get on the right path.