YOUNG GUNS: QUANDRE DIGGS

13 Aug By

2011 FRESHMAN ALL-AMERICAN QUANDRE DIGGSCOLLEGE FOOTBALL is an ongoing battle, testing players physically and mentally. Athletes endure the pain as they focus on improving with each practice and game. Every snap represents a chance to show their competency on the field. And with competency comes the trust of the coaches and team. When the lights turn on and fans fill the stadium seats each Saturday, players lose the opportunity to second guess plays or field position. They need to work as a team … as a brotherhood. And everyone needs to contribute. For cornerback Quandre Diggs, contributing to the Texas....defense was never a question.

Even before he stepped onto the field for his freshman season, various recruiting sites andsports analysts pegged Diggs as a future contributor for the Texas defense. Co-offensivecoordinator Major Applewhite and Quentin Jammer — Diggs’ older brother — agreed with the hype, telling the Longhorns to prepare for a fearless player, built from determination and toughness. “Quandre’s a football player. When you first meet him youimmediately think, ‘that guy’s a good player,’” Applewhite says. “He talks, breathes and sleeps football.” Jammer, now a secondary stalwart for the San Diego Chargers, roomed and played with Applewhite at Texas nearly a decade ago. Diggs visited his older brother often during those days, learning his way around the Longhorn football facilities and getting to know head coach Mack Brown and secondary coach Duane Akina.

“Growing up, football was his life,” Jammer says, who’s 13 years older than Diggs. “I taught him how to play man coverage and move his feet when he was 5 or 6 years old. I had him run- ning routes and catching balls.” Diggs, like Jammer, was an all-district player from Angleton High School and worked his way into the nation’s list of top cornerback recruits. But unlike his brother, Diggs started as a true freshman for Texas. “You never know how an incoming freshman will absorb the game mentally,” Akina comments. “The game is quicker and there are more schematics. But Quandre worked out with the best in the world and he’s not intimidated by anything.” “Quandre had a leg up on me,” Jammer adds. “When he got old enough to start learning  [the game], he did. The mental part of football is where people either excel or fall off. He had a great feel for how to play in certain defenses, even in high school.”

Enrolling early and knowing his way around the Texas locker room didn’t hurt either. “Coming here, to a place where I know the people and the environment made the transition much smoother,” Diggs comments. “I’ve always felt part of the Texas family. I trust the coaches.” Barely out of high school, Diggs became the Longhorns’ best punt returner in 2011 and led the team in interceptions. He tied the Texas freshmen record with four interceptions last season, adding to his 51 tackles (33 solo), four tackles for loss, 15 pass breakups and two caused fumbles. Diggs also returned 19 kickoffs for 371 yards and nine punts for 181 yards, including an 81-yarder that led the Longhorns to their epic win against Texas A&M.

CBS Sports named him to the 2011 Freshmen All-American team at the conclusion of the season. The 5’10”, 200-pound cornerback put in the work during last year’s spring practices and throughout the offseason. And although some may believe his offseason efforts were an attempt to ease the concerns regarding his size, Diggs believes otherwise. He doesn’t play harder because he’s a smaller guy. He plays hard because he can — and the team and coaches recognize his presence on the field. Diggs earned the nickname “Quandre the Giant” for a reason. “In my mind, I’m just as big as the other guys on the field. I don’t play into that size thing,” he says. Diggs may not be the prototypical cornerback in terms of stature, but his talent overshadows his size. His ability to excel at different positions on the field left quite the impression on the Texas coaches last season. “Quandre wears a lot of different hats,” Akina says. “He started off as a backup corner and quickly excelled at the position. He trotted out as punt returner and showed he can do that. We put him as kick returner and we received the same result. He’s handled everything we’ve asked him to do.” “I grew up quickly,” Diggs adds. “Things are flung at you pretty fast when you come in during the spring; you get thrown into the fire and the coaches expect you to keep up. I learned to be prepared for anything.” Diggs is more than a product of hard work and determination.

On and off the field, he models himself after his older brother. The two touch base every day — either by email, text or phone — and Jammer continues to provide guidance to his younger sibling. “Quentin’s advice is priceless. He’s taught me to be a better person,” Diggs explains. “I play because of him. When I was little, I told him that I would be better than him. And that’s what I intend to do.” Diggs refers to this as one of his tougher goals, but he’s comfortable with setting lofty goals for himself and the team. And after undergoing surgery on his left wrist this past March, he didn’t temper with his plans for the upcoming season. He missed the second half of spring drills and the annual Orange-White game, but he’s expected to return for fall drills at full strength. For that reason, he’s prepared to build on his freshman season.

“Last year was great, but I want to have an even better season this year,” he says. “We know what we can do as a defense, and we know what we can do as a team. My goals for the team are higher than my personal ones. At this time in 2013, I want to look back and know that we had a chance to play for the National Championship.”