Gaithersburg's Stefon Diggs Becomes a Hero in Minnesota
Wide receiver made historic game-winning touchdown to send Vikings to NFC championship game
Keith Allison/ Creative Commons
This story and headline were updated at 11 a.m. Jan. 16 to correct a reference to Stefon Diggs' hometown.
The play of the NFL’s divisional playoff weekend—and likely the 2017 NFL season—was pulled off by a speedy wide receiver who just six years ago was attending high school classes in Olney.
After a leaping catch of a line drive throw from quarterback Case Keenum with seconds left in the game and his team down 1 point, Stefon Diggs sprinted to the end zone for a 61-yard touchdown on Sunday. The game-winning play sent the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC championship game and elevated Diggs into a sports hero in Minnesota.
In Montgomery County, Diggs first developed the talent on display Sunday night against the New Orleans Saints.
Diggs, 24, grew up in Gaithersburg and attended Good Counsel High School in Olney. He played football and ran track at the school.
He was named to the All-Metro team by The Washington Post during his junior and senior year after racking up more than 750 yards receiving both seasons—including 23 touchdowns as a junior.
Despite receiving scholarship offers from traditional powerhouse football schools such as Florida, Ohio State, and Auburn, Diggs chose to play college football at the University of Maryland.
During his freshman year at College Park, he recorded the second-most all-purpose yards in school history with 1,896. He finished his three-year college career with 2,227 receiving yards and 14 receiving touchdowns, as well as two kick-return touchdowns.
The Vikings selected Diggs with the 146th overall pick in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Diggs broke out during the second half of his rookie season and ended the year as the team’s leading receiver with 52 receptions and 720 yards.
This season, he stars in the Vikings two-pronged passing attack with wideout Adam Thielen.
On Sunday night, Diggs was the star against the Saints. He finished with 137 receiving yards and the touchdown as time expired to secure the win.
The catch also made history. It was the first time a playoff game ended on a game-winning touchdown on the final play of the fourth quarter, according to NFL Research.
Yahoo Sports’ Frank Schwab ranked Diggs’ catch as the third-most thrilling game-winning moment in NFL playoff history. The top two were “The Music City Miracle” that propelled the Tennessee Titans to a win in 1999 and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 1972 “Immaculate Reception,” when a fluke deflection turned into a winning touchdown at the end of the game.
Already Diggs’ catch is being called the “Minneapolis Miracle.”
Washington Post sports columnist Barry Svurgla wrote Monday that Diggs had a chip on his shoulder after being drafted in a later round. NFL teams were concerned after he broke his leg during his sophomore season and wondered whether Diggs could make it at the next level.
On Sunday, Diggs proved he was a star, the columnist wrote.
“The kid from Gaithersburg, Md., who felt slighted all this time needs to feel that way no longer,” Svurgla wrote. “His life changed Sunday night, and he will forever be a hero here.”
In an interview after the game, Diggs said he didn’t know what happened during the catch.
“I really don’t,” Diggs said in the ESPN interview. “All I can say is ‘give it to God’ because without him nothing is possible and I wouldn’t be here so … .”
He added, “Since I first got here, I never stopped working. Today was when all that work paid off. God put me in a position and I just try to take advantage of my opportunity.”
The fans in Minnesota were glad he’s on their team. After the game ended, Diggs dropped to his knees, pressed his facemask into the end zone grass and held his arms straight out above his head as the cheers from the 66,000 fans at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis rained down on him.
Next week, Diggs and the Vikings will face off against the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship. The Eagles also have a Montgomery County connection--rookie wide receiver Mack Hollins is a Wootton High School graduate.
Besides Stefon's catch, the Diggs family already had a reason to celebrate this year, Stefon's brother, Trevon, plays cornerback for the University of Alabama, which just won the college football championship.