Brothers Trevon and Stefon Diggs would compete in everything growing up. One of Trevon's favorite games was knee football. They'd go in the basement, get on their knees and try to blast each other. But Stefon was more than a playmate to Trevon.
Stefon, a top-tier wide receiver for the Buffalo Bills, became a father figure to Trevon, an NFL cornerback prospect, when Trevon was 10 years old.
Their father, Aron Diggs, died in January 2008 at age 39 because of congestive heart failure. Aron gave Stefon, then 14, a mission: Take care of his mother, Stephanie; his sister, Porche Green; and his brothers Trevon and Mar'Sean (aka Darez). Stefon is the oldest of the Diggs siblings.
"[Stefon] is like my dad, honestly," Trevon said. "He was there for me when my father passed, so he has always taken care of me. I always ask him everything, no matter what. Two o'clock in the morning, I'm asking him questions. I called him last night, every day, about this process and how he managed it."
"He just took us under his wing, knowing we didn't have a father figure," Mar'Sean told TwinCities.com in 2019. "Just took on that role, basically. Guiding us, providing for us, being there when we needed him. Everything. Being a brother and a father. That's tough. That's a lot to ask of somebody that young."
Thanks in part to Stefon's guidance, Trevon, who won a national championship in college at Alabama, is about to become the next Diggs to join the NFL ranks.
Football is the family business
Both Stefon and Trevon will find themselves in new environments this year. Stefon will be suiting up for a new team -- the Bills -- after being traded this offseason. Trevon, who spent four seasons playing for Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban, could be a first-round pick later this month. He was projected to be taken by the Minnesota Vikings at No. 25 in ESPN analyst Todd McShay's latest mock draft.
That's the same team that drafted Stefon in the fifth round of the 2015 draft. Trevon watched Stefon's first NFL game, when he caught six passes for 87 yards.
"It's different when I watch him because I know what he can do," Trevon said. "Other people watch him and act like they're surprised. I saw him do everything. I saw him play running back, corner, receiver. I know his talent level and that nobody in the NFL can guard him."
Mar'Sean played football, too. He was a safety at UAB who had a tryout with the Vikings in 2019.
It was their dad who got the boys started in the "family business." Aron was their first coach and took them to practice every day before he died.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY POPS 😈!!— Diggs (@TrevonDiggs) October 24, 2015
Rest In Peace! 🙏🙌👼.. pic.twitter.com/fM1TsP6KBG
Stefon and Trevon were always close as kids, but losing their father brought them even closer. Stefon used to walk Trevon to and from school and was there to defend his little brother when necessary.
Added Trevon, "People didn't want to mess with me because I would tell them I'd call my brother."
Stefon was a standout player as a freshman at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Olney, Maryland. He was ranked as the No. 13 prospect in the nation in the Class of 2012 by ESPN.
"Stefon could've gone to any college in the country but chose to stay close to home," Stephanie said. "I sat Stefon down in high school and told him he had to make good decisions and set a good example because your brother looks up to you."
Although he received offers from bigger programs, Stefon went to Maryland so he could be close to his family.
Choosing his own way
While Stefon was playing at Maryland, Trevon carved out his own standout high school career as a wide receiver and defensive back at the Avalon School in Wheaton, Maryland.
Trevon felt like everyone was gunning for him because he was Stefon's little brother and the perception was that he didn't earn his reputation. Trevon said he didn't care about what others thought because he was "going to get his regardless." There was pressure on Trevon -- who had offers from many of college football's biggest programs, including Clemson and Alabama -- to go to Maryland like his brother.
❤️ Forever Thankful pic.twitter.com/pRCvqFSdI7— Diggs (@TrevonDiggs) May 9, 2019
As with everything else, Trevon sought counsel from his oldest brother. Stefon's advice was simple: "Do what's best for your life."
Trevon had Stefon by his side when he announced on national signing day Alabama would be his choice. Trevon didn't want to go to Maryland because he knew everything he did would be compared to Stefon.
"He did the Maryland thing and tore it up," Trevon said. "Why would I go somewhere where a bar is already set? ... I'd always be in comparison to everything that he did. I was even playing receiver at the time. I wasn't trying to be under his shadow."
Going to Alabama was a way to establish a name for himself.
"It was the best school for me," Trevon said. "There were so many players down there. I wanted to be at the best program and win championships."
A big change pays off
Trevon played receiver his first season at Alabama, with 11 catches for 88 yards and a touchdown. But he made the switch to cornerback as a sophomore at Saban's suggestion. The key for Trevon was trusting Saban's plan. Trevon went to Stefon for advice all the time while in college.
"His brother plays a big role. If there's anybody he's going to consult with, it's his brother," Alabama teammate Terrell Lewis said. "You can tell he gets all of his insight and advice from his big brother. That's a blessing to have someone in your corner like that."
Trevon called Stefon and told him about the switch.
"He looks at everything like, 'All right. Let's get to work.' Adversity or anything like that, he tells me to just push through it and go get it," Trevon said.
Having to compete in practice against likely 2020 first-round picks Henry Ruggs III and Jerry Jeudy helped prepare Trevon for what's to come. He used his background as a receiver to help him match patterns in coverage. Being familiar with routes and offensive concepts helped him become a better defender. Getting to compete with Stefon when they worked out in the summer was a bonus. The two brothers talked about everything before games. Trevon finished his final year at Alabama with three interceptions and eight passes defended.
The two brothers serve as each other's biggest critics. Trevon said he always found a way to watch Stefon's games. He referred to a stretch when Stefon had a few fumbles and how he spoke to him about ball security. Stefon got on Trevon about tackling at one point as well. Knowing what each other endured to develop their games made it easier and more valuable.
"Every time I am with Trevon, he is constantly calling Stefon to ask questions about anything and everything," Trevon's manager, Maxx Lepselter, said. "It's always great to see brothers look out for each other, let alone brothers who are in the same business and have gone through what these brothers have gone through."
Trevon believed he could make it to the NFL when he saw Stefon do it. It was his motivation. He has always been a step behind Stefon. When Stefon left high school, Trevon was entering it. The same went for college and now the NFL.
According to Trevon, Stefon "hopes to get to line up against" his brother at the next level. Trevon looks forward to the matchup as well, but in his mind the outcome is predetermined.
"The little brother always wins!"