When the Buffalo Bills sent several draft picks to acquire star wide receiver Stefon Diggs from the Minnesota Vikings back in March 2020, most Bills fans were ecstatic. Knowing that third-year quarterback Josh Allen would finally be paired up with a true number-one receiver (and one of the best route runners in the entire NFL) was enough for some to crown the Bills “Super Bowl contenders” before the season even began.
Enter the “‘SKOL!’ chanting” Vikings fans. As the news of the Diggs trade set the internet and sports world ablaze, defenders of the “purple and gold” took to social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook, hoping in their minds to “set the record straight” about their newly departed wide receiver. While many wished him the best with his new team and promised to continue following his NFL career, a segment of Vikings fans were thrilled to see him leave.
The growing narrative of Diggs before he was traded to the Bills consisted of terms like “diva,” “distraction,” and “cancer” in the locker room. Outspoken Vikings fans needed Bills Mafia to understand exactly what they were getting in the former fifth-round pick out of Maryland.
Many thought Buffalo paid too much for a player who “lacked effort” and arguments between the two fanbases about which team “won the trade” went on for weeks. Actually, THAT particular Twitter war is still ongoing.
Stefon Diggs has never:— Erik Meyer (@ErikMeyer23) March 17, 2020
-Had a 1,200 yard season-
-Been the #1 receiver on a team
-Been a good teammate
-Not been a diva
The Vikings won this trade.
The Vikings are not rebuilding just because they traded Stefon Diggs. That is ridiculous.— Dominique Clare (@DomClare) March 18, 2020
They traded him because he was a cry baby who didn't want to be on the Vikings.
He was a ticking time bomb.
You don't want that negativity energy in the locker room.
I had never had any bad interactions with Bills fans until after the Diggs trade. You’d think two fanbases who are both 0-4 in the Super Bowl could get along ♂️— Kyle Ashton (@beefdaddy4) July 21, 2020
What exactly happened that caused Stefon Diggs to fall out of grace with Vikings fans, though?
For starters, offensive coordinator John DeFilippo was fired a few games into the 2018 season. He was replaced in the interim by Kevin Stefanski (currently the head coach of the Cleveland Browns) who wanted to take a run-heavy approach to the offense. Obviously, this meant less touches for Diggs.
Then there was the troubled relationship with quarterback Kirk Cousins, who signed with the Vikings in 2018. Although the pair got off to a hot start, the trust between Cousins and Diggs fizzled fast.
As Diggs took note of the budding rapport between Cousins and current Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen, he began to plead with his quarterback to put his trust in him. Cousins, however, continued to look in other directions and relations between Diggs and the Vikings organization as a whole deteriorated even more.
In 2019, rumors began circulating that Stefon Diggs wanted out of Minnesota and his frustration with the team became apparent. He reportedly lost his temper several times in training camp, was fined for skipping practices and hinted to the media that something was going to happen shortly before being traded to the Bills.
Stefon Diggs received a boatload of press, most of it negative, during his last two seasons with the Vikings. Opinions were formed without ever truly understanding his side of the situation. Sure, Diggs probably could have handled certain issues a little better but was he the egotistical diva that people were making him out to be? I certainly don’t think so.
In fact, the argument could easily be made that Stefon Diggs is all heart, little ego and was simply born to compete. He’s also been an extraordinary leader from the beginning of his football career and pushes the people around him to be the very best versions of themselves.
Let’s DIGG in. It’s time for people to try to understand who Stefon Diggs really is, not only as a star wide receiver in the NFL, but also as a human being. I think he’s earned it.
Former teammates speak up
Ex-Vikings guard Alex Boone joined Matthew Coller of Purple Insider to offer up some thoughts on Stefon Diggs. He stated, “He was one of the best teammates I ever had. I loved him as a teammate.” He then goes on to describe some of his best qualities as a player while Coller reiterates Boone’s sentiments by saying that he’s never had anyone paint Diggs as a bad teammate.
"He was one of the best teammates I ever had. I equate him to Anquan Boldin and Randy Moss."— SKOR North (@SKORNorth) February 21, 2020
Alex Boone sets the record straight on Stefon Diggs. pic.twitter.com/eEhIQGjab5
Running back Dalvin Cook was interviewed by the Pioneer Press after the trade. He and Diggs had been teammates for three seasons and he reached out to the wide receiver to show his support. He said he told him that he was his brother for life and that he was still there with him.
Cook also expressed his feelings on the trade to the newspaper when he stated, “It hurt. That’s my brother. You know how close me and Diggsie were. To see him leave, it hurts because you spend so much time with a guy. ... It hurt a lot of guys in the locker room, but it’s part of the business. We’ve got to accept that Diggs wanted to be happy and be happy for him as a player.”
Adam Thielen, the wide receiver who was counted on to fill the leadership role after the departure of Diggs, also spoke to the Pioneer Press about the trade. Thielen praised his former teammate and said, “I have so much respect for him, of how hard he works, how he approaches the game of football. I’ve learned so much from him as far as a receiver, how to run routes, different things like that. ...We’ve talked since he got traded. ...He is one of my good friends and will be for the rest of our lives.”
Of course, there are plenty more examples of former teammates gushing over Stefon Diggs. But it’s time to take a look at what his current Bills teammates have to say.
The Bills LOVE Stefon Diggs
Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane is adamant that Stefon Diggs is NOT a diva. In fact, he believes he’s more of a “dog.”
Brandon Beane on Stefon Diggs: “I would not call him a diva. He’s a dog ... He brings an edge...We believe in our culture and we believe what we know about him he’ll be a fit here.”— Matthew Fairburn (@MatthewFairburn) April 2, 2020
Head coach Sean McDermott is a big fan of players who eat, sleep and breathe football. Stefon Diggs just so happens to epitomize the aforementioned kind of player and McDermott believes his competitiveness is having a positive impact on the team.
I love football... with all of me— DIGGS (@stefondiggs) July 7, 2020
Sean McDermott says the dog mentality Josh Norman and Stefon Diggs bring is contagious. Their competitive fire rubs off on rest of team and that's part of why the #Bills brought them onboard— Jon Scott (@JonScottTV) October 5, 2020
How does QB1 feel about his shiny, new wide receiver?
#Bills QB Josh Allen on Stefon Diggs: "This man loves to work. It was awesome to see the amount of detail he puts into his craft and how communicative he is. He will be loved in the locker room."— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) June 11, 2020
Allen and Diggs have been working out together in Florida.
It's the biggest thing that's been focused on during #Bills training camp: The chemistry between Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs.— Jon Scott (@JonScottTV) September 3, 2020
"A guy that just wants to be great. He's going to push everyone around him to be better."
More from Allen on his top target pic.twitter.com/YkIhBteWFL
And that was BEFORE the start of the season. Now, after having played four games, Josh Allen has developed a special kind of chemistry with Stefon Diggs—to the tune of 403 receiving yards, which is tied for first in the NFL. The duo spent the offseason playing Call of Duty together, constantly feature each other on their Instagram accounts and take turns with compliments during press conferences. It seems like a match made in heaven.
Honestly every time I get downed he’s right there to pick me up https://t.co/i3sGgc1Bez— DIGGS (@stefondiggs) June 11, 2020
Other Bills players are also huge fans of the wideout. Take a look for yourself.
Micah Hyde said two days ago this has been the most competitive #Bills training camp since he got here. Today we asked Jordan Poyer if he could give an example or an explanation as to why that's the case.— Matthew Bové (@Matt_Bove) August 26, 2020
Part of the reason: Stefon Diggs pic.twitter.com/rmkxxKd456
"Coming into this year knowing we have a receiver like that... I understand what he's going to do to help this football team."— Jon Scott (@JonScottTV) September 10, 2020
Micah Hyde saw it with Packers and now teammates on the #Bills... Stefon Diggs is a game-changer
"1-on-1, he can expose anyone who is guarding him." pic.twitter.com/hWCEwgNVrv
My guy Diggs foe 6! Put em-up!!!— *Joshua R. Norman (@J_No24) September 20, 2020
DIGGS!!!!!!— Jonathan Feliciano (@MongoFeliciano) September 20, 2020
Stefon Diggs praises others
For all the positive talk surrounding Stefon Diggs from coaches and teammates, Diggs is always quick to reciprocate. He seems to truly love playing in Buffalo and never misses a chance to heap praises on staff and players.
Stefon Diggs impressed with the smarts on Gabriel Davis. As a rookie, he can already play every wide receiver spot on the field.— Thad Brown (@thadbrown7) September 30, 2020
"In a game, if I say, 'hey, Gabe, what do I got on this side?' He gonna probably know. I trust Gabe." pic.twitter.com/JkHrOZCihO
Stefon Diggs was first to celebrate with Tyler Kroft after the GWTD Sunday.— Thad Brown (@thadbrown7) September 30, 2020
"I had the best seat in the house"
After the INT that Kroft had "taken" away...
"I could see it in his eye that he was gonna make a play... and next play he did"
(Love the look on Diggs face at the end) pic.twitter.com/tstXFiO4KK
Stefon Diggs called WR John Brown one of the "most underrated receivers in the NFL."— Heather Prusak (@haprusak) September 13, 2020
Brown was a big target today with 6 catches for 70 yards and a touchdown in the #Bills 27-17 season opening win against the #Jets. @news4buffalo pic.twitter.com/viOSeXgTAB
Stefon Diggs calls offensive coordinator Brian Daboll the "mastermind".— Heather Prusak (@haprusak) September 13, 2020
Diggs had some big first down catches in his #Bills debut, a 27-17 win over the Jets in the season opener. Diggs ended with 8 catches for 86 yards on 9 targets. @news4buffalo pic.twitter.com/Y01GzOTaDa
Stefon Diggs: I like playing with 17 pic.twitter.com/14m29xVZkn— Matthew Bové (@Matt_Bove) September 30, 2020
Actions speak louder than words
Perhaps talk doesn’t mean much to you, though. After all, players usually speak complimentary about their current and former teammates in the public eye, don’t they? If you need more proof that Stefon Diggs has been a leader, excellent teammate and overall good person from the beginning, keep reading.
When Diggs was still on the Vikings, he spent a lot of his time, on and off the field, with kids. Players across the NFL participate in different charities but it’s easy to recognize the ones who actually enjoy helping people. Whether tossing a ball back and forth to a young fan on the sidelines, making kids feel important or handing out coats to children in need, Stefon Diggs always has a smile on his face. He truly cherishes making a difference in the lives of children.
Charity & commitment- some guys do it because they are told it's the right thing. Some guys do it because they truly care. No one is more attentive to making kids feel important on or off the field than Stefon Diggs. Minnesota should be proud of their adoptive son. @stefondiggs pic.twitter.com/w17fYuh21l— VikeFans (@VikeFans) July 6, 2019
The words that come to mind while watching these videos are gentle, caring and role model. Tell me I’m wrong.
Wide receiver Mitch Mathews knew Stefon Diggs for four whole days when his mother passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2017. Diggs immediately sent a DM to Mathews, offering support to the new Vikings wideout, something that completely blew Mathews away.
Stefon Diggs might get painted as a diva, but let's not forget what kind of a leader he's proven himself to be. Last year, newly-signed WR Mitch Matthews lost his mom & got married in the same month. Diggs sent him this DM less than a week after they met:— Nick Olson (@NickOlsonNFL) July 12, 2018
THAT's leadership. #tbt pic.twitter.com/PJetCSW8wn
At one point, even though his relationship with Kirk Cousins was strained, Stefon Diggs knew he still needed to reassure his quarterback. On the sidelines during a game, the wide receiver let Cousins know that he didn’t have to force the ball to him if he didn’t feel comfortable with it. “Play your game”, Diggs said. Social media took note.
Diggs to Cousins on the sideline: "Don't feel like you gotta force s— to me all right? Play your game!"— Nick Olson (@NickOlsonNFL) January 9, 2020
wHaT a DiVa pic.twitter.com/fW0ol8w6FG
When Stefon’s little brother, cornerback Trevon Diggs, was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 2020, he wrote a very personal letter to him, welcoming him to the NFL. Grab your tissues before watching, though.
New #Cowboys CB Trevon Diggs is the younger brother of wide receiver Stefon Diggs.— Mike Leslie (@MikeLeslieWFAA) April 25, 2020
Prior to the #NFLDraft, Stefon wrote this letter to Trevon, welcoming him to the NFL.
It is very worth your time.pic.twitter.com/KIcKYUodeD
Upon being traded to the Buffalo Bills in early 2020, Stefon Diggs also penned a letter for The Players’ Tribune . In it, he detailed the emotional rollercoaster he experienced, from the sadness of leaving behind amazing friendships to the excitement of starting over and being able to play with Josh Allen. Every last bit of it is worth the read.
Four things that @stefondiggs is looking forward to in Buffalo (in no particular order): working with @JoshAllenQB, taking the @BuffaloBills offense to the next level, #BillsMafia and the wings.https://t.co/KkoLXrWIM2— The Players' Tribune (@PlayersTribune) April 10, 2020
What about leadership, you ask? The proof’s in the pudding with this one.
Since training camp, Stefon Diggs has demanded the very best from his teammates. He’s not afraid to offer up some constructive criticism and he has spent lots of time trying to get on the same page as Josh Allen. His expectations for them are just as high as everyone else’s.
I asked Josh Allen about those conversations I captured at practice today between he, Stefon Diggs, and Brian Daboll.— Jon Scott (@JonScottTV) September 16, 2020
"We're just trying to fast-track that process."
More from the #Bills QB on how he and Diggs are doing everything they can to build chemistry quick. pic.twitter.com/9KjKW0o9uM
We've seen this multiple times over past few weeks.— Jon Scott (@JonScottTV) September 1, 2020
Stefon Diggs not satisfied with timing w/ Josh Allen during against-air work... so they do it again.
Check out how Diggs has to sort of stop on 1st throw... then is hit in stride by Allen on 2nd... w/Diggs reaction.#Bills pic.twitter.com/bWs7xxbWd9
Diggs isn’t just a leader, though. He’s an unselfish one. At halftime against the Miami Dolphins, Stefon told offensive coordinator Brian Daboll to get John Brown and Cole Beasely the ball. He recognizes their importance to the team and is willing to lose some receptions if it means winning the game. Ask yourselves, would a diva do that?
"Smoke gets on the headset with me & says, 'Keep feeding 14.' Then we get in at halftime and Diggs is like, 'We can get Smoke over here and we can get Bease over here."— Dan Fetes (@danfetes) September 21, 2020
-Brian Daboll on the unselfishness of the Bills wide receivers
"You like to see that as a coach"#BillsMafia pic.twitter.com/k8NkJkjTxq
When it comes to bonding with his Bills teammates, Stefon Diggs did something special: He created custom handshakes for everyone. Nothing says “team building” like a secret handshake.
My absolute favorite outward showing of leadership came during the game against the Las Vegas Raiders, however. Right before halftime, Josh Allen threw a pass and was crushed between two defenders. Clutching his shoulder, it was clear that he was in pain and social media speculated about the seriousness of his injury.
Stefon Diggs, however, remained poised and got straight to work on the bench. Not knowing if Josh Allen would return, Diggs immediately began talking with backup quarterback Matt Barkley, bringing him up to speed on the game plan. His focus during a possible catastrophic moment speaks volumes to who he is as a player.
Something that I doubt anyone will bring up but Stefon Diggs coaching up Matt Barkley after Josh Allen went into locker room shows tremendous leadership. Diggs has come in and made everyone better since he stepped foot inside of One Bills Drive. pic.twitter.com/37GvZJagti— Pierre Kingpin (@Pierre_Kingpin) October 5, 2020
On game day, Stefon Diggs consistently shows his team and Bills Mafia that he is worth every penny (and draft pick) spent on him. From leaping grabs on contested catches to putting his body on the line in order to make a hard-nosed block, Diggs does whatever it takes to win. His unselfish play and ability to fire up his teammates on the sidelines are just a few reasons that he is a true, number-one, ELITE wide receiver.
Josh Allen completed 8 of 9 (89%) targets to Stefon Diggs vs Jets (86 yards - 10.8 yard ave). Diggs is a beast and I still can't believe Bills have him pic.twitter.com/BXdZucN7PH— Bills QB Watch (@BillsQBwatch) September 14, 2020
Remember, football fans, don’t always believe what you hear. Don’t judge a book by what other people read (or something like that). And don’t forget that there are two sides to every story.
In the wise words of Stefon Diggs himself:
Keep finding new ways to get better...— DIGGS (@stefondiggs) March 31, 2020
Oh, and the Buffalo Bills absolutely WON THAT TRADE!!