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Vikings deep in playoffs, thanks in part to diligent Diggs

EDEN PRAIRIE — The path for Stefon Diggs to last-play touchdown fame and sudden Minnesota savior didn’t start with such brilliance.

Diggs has only arrived at this stage of his life and his career, a Vikings standout on the verge of a Super Bowl, with an unrelenting diligence and a dose of humility.

For all the natural talent of a consensus five-star recruit coming out of high school, he’s sure had to work hard to get here.

“He’s my guy. I love him to death. I appreciate all he does for this team, and I appreciate all he’s done for me,” fellow wide receiver Adam Thielen said. “He’s pushed me harder than anybody has pushed me in my life.”

Remember those first three regular-season games in the NFL? Not really. He was a healthy scratch on the sideline.

That’s a long way from the 61-yard catch-turn-run sequence that Diggs produced as time expired on Sunday that sent the Vikings to the NFC championship game with a 29-24 victory over New Orleans .

“He continually has gotten better over the past three years,” tight end Kyle Rudolph said.

“It’s awesome to see guys like that who work so hard have an opportunity in such a big moment and for them to make the most of it.”

Treating each practice as if it’s a game is a common response from teammates asked about Diggs and his work ethic. Thielen and Diggs are widely considered to be two of the sharpest and savviest route runners in the league.

“He wants to win. Whether he’s getting the ball or he’s not getting ball, blocking or not, whatever he’s doing, he wants to win,” Vikings cornerback Mackensie Alexander said, adding: “The thing I love about Diggs is he doesn’t let the game be bigger than him. He just kind of goes in the game, and it’s just another game. That allows you to play well.”

Setbacks became a recurring theme for Diggs, who chose to stay in his home state and play for Maryland so his family could watch him more often despite offers from powerhouse programs such as Auburn, Florida and USC.

With the Terrapins, though, he caught passes from four different quarterbacks over three seasons, with more than one starter used each year.

Injuries each season kept him from playing a full schedule, including a broken leg as a sophomore and a lacerated kidney as a junior.

When he declared for the draft a year early, there were also questions from NFL teams about his attitude and compliance.

After high stepping and somersaulting into the end zone in one game in 2013, coach Randy Edsall pulled him aside for a mild admonishment to remind him about the importance of reputation.