How Bills' Stefon Diggs Went From Malcontent to Captain

The wide receiver's leadership qualities have quickly come to forefront following departure from Minnesota Vikings.
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Stefon Diggs' talent has always been undeniable. His perceived leadership ability had always been a different story.

Until last year.

Shortly after the wide receiver all but forced the Minnesota Vikings to trade him to the Buffalo Bills following the 2019 season, Diggs immediately embraced the city of Buffalo, the Bills Mafia and, more important, his new teammates.

That dynamic led his peers to elect him on Tuesday as one of the team's eight captains for 2021.

The selection had little or nothing to do with his immense production last season, in which he led the NFL with 127 receptions and 1,535 receiving yards. It had almost everything to do with the impact he's made in the locker room since joining the team.

Bills WR Stefon Diggs.

Stefon Diggs became a respected leader after being traded to Bills.

"To me, it means a lot just because individually I've been putting in a lot of work," Diggs said. "I'm saying I try to be the example as far as how much work I put in. I put in a lot of work individually. But being a captain [is] more so like a team thing, like everybody feels a certain way about you as far as how you carry yourself on your team and how you lead this team.

"So for me, just even last year, kind of like Dion Dawkins speaking on it last year on his behalf, saying like he felt like I could have been a captain last year: It meant a lot to me then and it means even more now, just as far as being acknowledged by your peers ... and the fact that they trust you, they trust you in the biggest moments and they trust you on a daily basis that you're going to do the right thing on and off the field. So yeah, I was happy."

The rapport Diggs was able to develop with quarterback Josh Allen, the team's other offensive co-captain, last season was all the more remarkable considering the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the entire offseason program, limited what the team could do in training camp and forced the cancellation of all preseason games.

After all, Diggs was perceived as a chemistry wrecker in Minnesota, and all of a sudden he was being integrated into the Bills' culture.

But he fit in all of a sudden. No adjustment period. Diggs, it seemed, was born to wind up in Buffalo.

"It was fair for people to make their assumptions or their assessment from the outside looking in," Diggs admitted. "You know, that's fair. I was just looking at it as when when I get there, I'm saying I'll show them who I am and we'll go from there. So me, as far as like my new chapter with my new team, things are going pretty good. Trying to keep it that way.

"... That [trade] could have broke me as far as like going to a new team and things [might not] have went well or, you know, things could have went a little shaky, or I [might not] have the success I had. At this point in my career, I've tried to earn the respect of my peers, I've tried to earn the respect of my coaches, and I felt like having that new start was more like God putting me in a new position to be like, `All right, show them who you are?' "

From the jump, the Bills knew they had a special player in every which way.

"They just embraced me," he said. "I was just thankful that they embraced me. They didn't judge me, they didn't put me on this pedestal or in this bad place, or `this is the kind of player he is, so let's treat him this kind of way.' "

Diggs believes this is the first time he's ever been a captain, though he can't remember if he was in high school. But he's embracing the role just like he did as Allen's immediate top option last year.

His leadership style?

"For me, a true leader is knowing your teammates," he said. "You know you've got some guys that you can scream at, you can cuss them out and they'll react well. Then you've got to know a guy that doesn't react well to that, a guy like Josh, who has a lot of energy, he's playful. But in the game ... you might have to have his back and just be like this: `Let's all settle down. Just make your next play your best play.

"I like to get riled up too. Everybody does. Everybody has a lot of energy. But different people need different ways, and being able to know your teammates and know what they need, that's a leader to me."

Nick Fierro is the publisher of Bills Central. Check out the latest Bills news at www.si.com/nfl/bills and follow Fierro on Twitter at @NickFierro. Email to Nicky300@aol.com.