Stefon Diggs is the perfect portrait of a playmaker. He’s an artist on the football field, using his route running and circus catches as the brushstrokes that complete his aesthetically pleasing game. Diggs is master at creating separation against defensive backs, and in 2017 he became the fastest Minnesota wide receiver to 200 receptions, breaking the records set by Percy Harvin and Hall of Famer Randy Moss. We caught up with the talented 25 year old to see how he separates himself from the rest, on and off the field.

Q: Why did you choose to play college football at Maryland?

A: I chose to stay home and play at Maryland because I have brothers and a lot of family there. We lost our father when I was around 14, so I wanted to stay close to my little brothers to keep another male figure in their lives who could show them the way. Maryland wasn’t, and isn’t, the most glamorous for a lot of people, but I wanted to go somewhere where I knew it was going to work out like it was supposed to, and if you have the ability and work ethic, you can accomplish all your goals at any school you want.

Q: What advice do you have for high school athletes going through that same college recruiting process?

A: I would tell high school athletes to make the best decision for themselves. Do whatever you feel is going to make you happy in the long run because you have to live with that decision – not your mom, your uncle, or anybody else in your life. You can’t let them push you to go to a school that you don’t want to go to, because at the end of the day you have to make the best decision for you.

Q: As a fifth-round pick, did you have a chip on your shoulder coming into the league?

A: 100 percent. When I declared for the draft, I was projected to go in the third to fifth round range. But I didn’t think I was going to last all the way to the fifth round because I have a certain skill set and talent, and I was betting on somebody taking a chance on me. It definitely put a chip on my shoulder because I felt like I was better than that. I knew I was better than that. It’s funny because I had an interview at the combine and I said I’m one of the best receivers in this draft, and people kind of laughed at me — they looked at me like I was crazy. But I believed that and I knew it then — I’m not somebody who will back away or shy away from the things I say. I said it and I stood on it. Now that the smoked cleared, I’m one of the best receivers, if not the best receiver, who came out of that draft. I had one opportunity to make the most of myself and I took it seriously. I wanted to make the most out of my chance.

Q: What goes into the art of running a route?

A: I would say the art of route running is really about preparation. It’s about being where you need to be and setting up a timing with the quarterback. I take route running seriously because I love getting open and I love creating separation — that’s my game. So, the art of it is really just honing in on your craft and perfecting your timing, spacing, and catching abilities.

Q: Why do you wear the adiZero 8.0 cleat?

A: First off, it’s light. When you’re a wide receiver looking for a cleat, you want something that’s extremely light weight and flexible. The adiZero gives you some flexibility but also has material that fits snug — It’s built for comfort and speed.

Q: You’re famous for having creative pre-game cleat designs, do you have a favorite?

A: My Snoop Dogg ones were my favorite. It was my first time playing in L.A. at the Coliseum and I wore Snoop Dogg cleats. It really doesn’t get much better than that. Also, when I was younger, my mom called me Snoop, and my dad called me Dog, those were their nicknames for me.

Q: Which part of your game makes you stand out from the rest of the wide receivers in the league?

A: Personality. I play with a lot of passion, I play with a chip on my shoulder, and I’m charismatic. Out on the field I play free and with a whole lot of positive energy. I’ve got playmaking ability and a certain talent that God gave me where I can make a play at any given time, and players don’t always have that. I feel like I’m highly favored in a lot of situations.

Q: You were the hero of the Minneapolis Miracle, one of the craziest playoff plays in league history, what was going through your mind during that play?

A: I just got chills thinking about it. It was something that I’ll never forget, and I’ll never get tired talking about because it’s a feeling that very few people will experience. It was like hitting a buzzer beater in basketball, but in football, things like that don’t happen. I’ll never forget the feeling of running into the end zone because it was something that changed my outlook on things. People tell you anything can happen and that you should never give up, and those words are so small. But in the smallest situations on the biggest stage, those words were true. It’s true that you should never give up and give it everything you got until the whistle blows.

Q: What does it mean to you to be the next Eastbay cover athlete?

A: It means a lot because I remember when I was growing up, I used to grab like 20 Eastbay catalogs because I knew everything was in there. I actually used to circle the things I wanted in the catalog. If you’re an athlete, you know Eastbay has everything in one place. It means a lot and it’s an honor. I’m happy to be on the cover and hopefully we can do it again.