Former Maryland wide receiver Stefon Diggs has been lifted into the national spotlight this week after his
dramatic, game-winning catch
led the Minnesota Vikings to a playoff win against the New Orleans Saints Jan. 14. The play has been dubbed the "Minneapolis Miracle."
PressBox caught up with former Maryland (and current UConn) head coach Randy Edsall to discuss Diggs, whom he coached at Maryland from 2012-2014. Edsall also discussed his American Athletic Conference head coaching rival Ken Niumatalolo staying at Navy.
What did it mean to you to see how emotional Diggs was after making what will go down as one of the great plays in football history?
Randy Edsall: I think the thing that people don't understand about Stefon is his team is important to him, his teammates and all of those things. He always had a flair for the dramatic. He thrived on situations like that. And to be able to make a play like that and to help his team move on to the NFC Championship Game, the competitiveness and the competitor that he is, you could just see that, and I could feel it because he was still trying to do everything that he possibly could to help his team win. And to be able to make that play, I know deep down inside of him, he felt good that he was able to help his team move forward. That's just the kind of guy he is. I don't know how many better competitors I've ever been around. And when the moment was big, he was going to be as big or step up and make something happen. I was just very, very happy for him. Things haven't come easy for him, but all he did is stay focused and do his job and help his team to advance.
Some people have brought up Diggs' ego as part of the reason he lasted until the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft. (A recent Sports Illustrated story said he told every team during pre-draft interviews, "I'm the best receiver in this draft, just so you know.") What do you make of that reputation?
RE: I think sometimes people take a look at certain things. Stefon is a very confident young man in his abilities and his ability to make plays. Sometimes maybe that might not sit well with people. But when you're around him every day and you see him and how he operates, you gain an appreciation for who he is and what he's all about. And that was the one thing that I liked because I thought he brought a confidence and maybe a little bit of swagger to some other guys. The one thing I do know is that Stefon was going to back up what he said or what he was going to do. A perfect example of that, whether people really liked or if they didn't like it, [was] what took place at Penn State when we went up there (Diggs and two fellow team captains refused to shake hands with Penn State's captains during the coin toss in 2014.)
When he gets something on his mind and he wants to do it, he's going to go ahead and do it. It might upset some people, but he's going to back it up. You appreciate that about a guy. I think he's the type of guy that makes people better around him. And those are the things that I always appreciated about him. If you needed a play, you know he was going to give everything he had. He would be the guy to make a game-breaking play for you.
Ravens fans in particular have been frustrated that the team let Diggs slip away despite having the scouting advantage of being local. Can you explain why a team whose scouts saw as much of Diggs as the Ravens did wasn't able to identify him as a player worthy of being taken earlier?
RE: I think one of the best things that happened for Stefon -- and I think this helped him grow -- I think getting away from this area was probably a key for him having more success at the professional level. That he could go out there to Minnesota, away from a lot of people that would be tugging at him and all those sort of things. And I think it probably allowed him to really focus and concentrate on being the best pro that he could be. And I'm not sure that if he stayed close that he might have been distracted and maybe wouldn't be doing as many good things as he is right now. I think it was in the best interest of Stefon. I think going to Minnesota was a good opportunity for him and you see that he's making the most of it and taking advantage of it.
I don't think people should be critical of the Ravens or the Redskins because nobody knows what their needs were or what they were looking for at that particular time. Just be happy that Stefon was able to go to Minnesota and he's able to do the things that he's doing right now, because if things work out for him the way I'm sure that he hopes that they will, he might have an opportunity to come back here as a free agent. But that needs to be Stefon's decision for what he thinks might be best for him.
Was there any part of you that wouldn't have been too sad if Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo had left the AAC for Arizona as reports last weekend indicated he might?
RE: The thing that saddened me most about that is when I read where the quarterback came out and said something about the triple option and then maybe the leadership of that University kind of went away from maybe their beliefs. In the long run it probably worked out better for Ken. I've got a tremendous amount of respect for him and who he is as a person and who he is as a coach. They're on the other side of the [conference] so we really don't play them all the time and we don't see them very much. I felt for him because I saw those things that came out. I tell you what; if you can have Kenny at your school being your head football coach you need to jump at it. Because there's not a better man and a better coach than him.
For more from Edsall, listen to the full interview:
Photo Credit: Mitch Stringer/PressBox