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Washington Redskins UDFA profile - Vontae Diggs, LB, U Conn

A tough kid who grew up with the odds stacked against him, and an undersized small school linebacker with inconsistent tackling, can Diggs beat the odds again and stick with the Redskins?

NCAA Football: East Carolina at Connecticut Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

I’m damn proud of the kid, where he’s gotten to, considering what he’s had to deal with. I’ve told him many times, the chips have always been stacked against you and you’re not supposed to succeed. Let’s prove ‘em wrong.

— John Zea

Diggs has potential but with his small size and problems with tackling, he has a long way to go.

— Gibbs4potus

From homeless high school kid to NFL prospect, Diggs has been winning against the odds for years

The Hartford Courant, in June 2016, ran a feature story on Vontae Diggs titled, “Vontae Diggs Was Once Homeless And Living In Car, But UConn LB Got Support He Needed”.

Born in Las Vegas, Diggs was 5 when his mother, Robin Jones, moved him to Chicago’s South Side, where she was raised. It was the neighborhood near the intersection of 79th and Colfax where Diggs was initially hardened. Within a few years, Diggs and his mother and older brother, Jermal Jones, had relocated to Downers Grove, where Robin worked at a waste management company.

That job, like others for Robin, didn’t last, so one apartment became the next apartment and then became the hotel room and then the Oldsmobile. With his mother and brother in the front seats, Diggs would cram into the back among every family possession and try to sleep. That was his home.

Sometimes Diggs would leave the car and walk the streets aimlessly while teammates and classmates were warm and safe in beds across the middle-class, mostly white community of Downers Grove, 22 miles from the Chicago city limits. Each day, he washed up in a McDonald’s restroom on Ogden Avenue. A friend’s mother did his laundry. Diggs would pull clean clothes out of the back of the car before school each morning.

It was, to say the least, an unsettling existence.

”Yeah, I fought a lot,” Diggs said. “I’m a hothead now, a little bit, still. But then, I was a completely different person. I was street-edged. I grew up fighting all the time for no reason. If you looked at me wrong, I would fight. It took a long time for me to overcome that.”

During Diggs’ adolescent years, his family continually started over with the unique challenges poverty brings. Diggs often lashed out, and even when his actions were innocent enough he could be overwhelming, all horseplay and outbursts.

”He was just angry with everything going on and he didn’t know how to deal with it,” Robin said.

After his freshman year of high school, it became clear the living situation with one family wouldn’t work long-term and Diggs spent most of his free time at the home of friends Tony and Andrew Zea, twin brothers. One night, their father, John Zea, wondered aloud where Diggs was. Sleeping in a park, the twins thought, and John Zea said, “Go get him.”

Stability was about to enter Diggs’ life.

”His mom was working a lot, bad hours, and wasn’t really available to help all the time,” John Zea said. “I was going to give him a place stay for a night, a week. The idea was just to make sure he had a meal to eat every night and a place to stay. A day, a week, months, years later, he stayed with us. And as he stayed with us, he had the understanding that things were going to have to change with him. Early in high school, Vontae was not easy to control. He was a tough guy and I’m pretty sure he didn’t want to listen to any authority whatsoever. We had to make it clear that, if you want to stay with us, that’s going to have to change.”

John Zea and Nancy Zea offered attention, shelter and discipline Diggs had never encountered on a regular basis. As he worked to appreciate and fit into a healthy family structure, he began to change — slowly, for sure, but consistently. Diggs remained edgy, but he also softened and other personality traits surfaced. He became a popular student. He volunteered with special needs children. When the youngest of the three Zea children, Alex, was having trouble with math, Diggs would spend hours at the kitchen table explaining the equations.

When he’s back home in Downers Grove, Diggs volunteers in the high school weight room. He chats with teachers and administrators. He visits the homes of numerous families who have helped him. His best friends remain Andrew and Tony Zea, juniors-to-be at the University of Illinois, where Andrew studies engineering and Tony is in the business school and on the track team.

Diggs, like any 20-year-old, continues to work toward bettering himself. Even this past semester was a fight to the end in trying to maintain a strong academic standing. He said Diaco sat him out of a few spring practices for academic and disciplinary reasons. Still, halfway through his college experience, he is increasingly at peace with who he is, where he’s been and where he’s headed.

“I want to be a high school counselor for the simple fact that I’ve seen and done it all,” he said. “I’ve lived in poverty and, thanks to the Zeas, I’ve lived very comfortably. To have seen the things I’ve seen, to have done the things I’ve done — good and bad — I know everything happens for a reason. There’s nothing you can tell me about that I haven’t seen.”

NCAA Football: Memphis at Connecticut David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s find out what Gibbs4potus saw when he reviewed film on Vontae Diggs:

Vontae Diggs is another undersized ILB signed by the Redskins as an UDFA, but he has some room on his 6’3” frame to add some muscle. Diggs played OLB as a junior and primarily ILB as a senior.

There are no cutups available on Diggs, so I watched him using two cutups of his teammate, Folo Fatukasi and one of Drew Lock of Missouri. I was very surprised, after watching his videos, that his 40 yard dash was only in the 4.78-4.80 range, since Diggs can be found running all over the field.

Play 1

Diggs makes a good play here as he reads two blockers out in front as the handoff is being made.

Diggs splits the blockers and sprints at the runner.

He squares up to make the tackle as the runner sees pursuit coming.

The runner tries to beat Diggs to the edge where he has blockers in front but Diggs grabs the ankle,

and brings him to the ground.

Diggs didn’t have very good form on the tackle but he got the runner to the ground.

Play 2

Here, a runner sees pursuit and tries to cut back behind Diggs.

Diggs doesn’t square up properly but gets a hand on the runner.

He is able to get two hands on the runner,

and grabs his ankles as he falls to the ground.

Diggs makes the tackle despite poor form.

Play 3

Diggs does a good job covering the flats. Here, he sees the pass coming,

He lines up the receiver,

and makes a good form tackle,

Diggs needs to keep his head up though.

We don’t want any neck injuries.

Play 4

Diggs sizes up another receiver in the flat.

But his form breaks down when the receiver makes an inside move.

Diggs attempts another reach tackle,

But is unsuccessful this time.

The receiver gets away for a first down.

Play 5

On this fourth and one play, Diggs has the QB on the read option.

However, Quinton Flowers raises his arm to throw.

Flowers pulls the ball down and cuts inside of Diggs.

Diggs is off balance as he didn’t stay over the balls of his feet and attempts a diving tackle,

but Flowers is able to get the first down,

and he slips loose from the arms of Diggs and keeps on going.

Play 6

Diggs has shown that he can get in position to make tackles but he is so inconsistent with his technique that he will miss tackles. With his light frame, can he get off blocks?Here, an offensive lineman gets his hands on Diggs on the outside.

Diggs slips the block and locates the running back.

Diggs keeps his outside leverage and makes the tackle.

Diggs makes plays but he also misses tackles. He has good athletic ability and looks faster than his timed speed. He is athletic enough to cover downfield but didn’t show much in terms of ball skills.

How would he fit with the Redskins?

The Redskins have draft pick Shaun Dion Hamilton and UDFA Jerod Fernandez on the roster at ILB and I think they both are much more advanced than Diggs. Diggs could possibly develop some if he spent a year on the practice squad and an offseason with the Redskins’ strength and conditioning program.

I don’t think Diggs gets the chance this year. His inconsistent technique will probably keep him from even making the practice squad. Diggs has potential but with his small size and problems with tackling, he has a long way to go.

Some Tweets from Vontae Diggs Twitter feed:


As UFDAs go, rate Vontae Diggs

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    (7 votes)
  • 8%
    (20 votes)
  • 47%
    (108 votes)
  • 34%
    (79 votes)
  • 5%
    (13 votes)
227 votes total Vote Now


How good are the chances that Vontae Diggs is on the Redskins roster in 2018?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    Pretty strong
    (4 votes)
  • 1%
    Above average
    (4 votes)
  • 12%
    (29 votes)
  • 84%
    (200 votes)
237 votes total Vote Now