Stefon Diggs is now a bona fide star. Through two games, the Minnesota Vikings’ second-year receiver has an NFL-best 285 yards, 182 of which he racked up in a crucial Sunday Night Football win over Green Bay. Diggs helped put away the Packers with a 25-yard third-quarter touchdown and wowed with a diving 44-yard grab between defenders, helping new quarterback Sam Bradford find his rhythm and the Vikes arrive at 2–0.
But the former Maryland Terrapin isn’t just focused on becoming one of the league’s top receivers: Buoyed by an obsession with retro basketball style, Diggs is trying to make short shorts a thing in the NFL.
“His shorts are unreasonable,” fellow receiver Cordarrelle Patterson said at Vikings training camp this summer. “He’s the first guy I’ve ever seen do that on a football field, but you can’t be mad at him, because he’s owning it.”
Diggs’s shorts have gotten progressively shorter over the past 18 months, Patterson said, starting with offseason training in 2015 and shrinking practice by practice to the point where “you cannot go shorter.”
“I just look at it and say, ‘What is he doing?’” said cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. “This is not going to catch on.”
That may not be the case: Diggs is only wearing short shorts because another fashion play caught on in the first place. When Mike Wallace signed with the Vikings in the spring of 2015, he wanted to get weird with practice attire, so he wore his game pants during drills, inspiring other receivers to start experimenting with their garb. Wallace may be gone, but his influence lingers: Patterson, for instance, now opts for cut-up sweatpants with faux-camo tights underneath.
That spring, Diggs, a fifth-round pick, decided he would embrace short shorts. Receivers typically choose to limit the bulky items they wear because avoiding extra fabric “frees you up” to go as fast as possible, he said. But that usually means regular workout shorts or tights. Diggs had worn “short shorts a lot” off the field prior to that moment, so he decided to embrace the cut on the field as well.
There was a problem, though: Team-issued gear doesn’t include anything like what Diggs had in mind. Short shorts were not a thing, but that didn’t stop Diggs. “I kept rolling my shorts up, shorter and shorter,” Diggs said of 2015. “By training camp [equipment managers] came up to me and said, ‘Uh, we can hem them. I guess.’”
While strict rules prohibit NFL players from wearing anything nontraditional during games, Diggs wears his short shorts whenever he’s practicing, working out, or doing other game prep.
“My mom sees it and makes fun of me constantly; she calls me John Stockton,” said Diggs. “Everyone on the team has been making fun of me, so I’m not going to change now.”
The Stockton comparison is apt, because ’80s basketball is the root of Diggs’s affinity for short shorts. For off-the-field use, he routinely orders retro basketball shorts from a fashion boutique called Just Don; his current favorites are late 1980s Golden State Warriors and mid-1990s Philadelphia 76ers shorts. Diggs’s practice shorts are so similar to those hoops shorts that it’s led to what Diggs described as relentless name-checking of ’80s basketball players — “John Stockton!” “Michael Jordan!” “Isiah Thomas!” “Ralph Sampson!” — by coaches and players whenever Diggs does anything noticeable at practice. “Coaches name basically every ’80s basketball player,” Diggs said. “I’m paying respect to ’80s basketball players, even if I don’t know every player they are talking about. Sometimes I don’t even hear what coach it is, I just hear someone yelling some ’80s player.”
Diggs’s next mission, he said, is to talk to companies that produce short shorts about getting them made for football so that he has more options to wear while working out. He said he wants to be a “team player” and avoid distracting anyone from practice with his shorts choices, but he’s also determined to start a trend: “Short shorts are cool,” he said. “It should catch on.”
So far, it’s only caught on with Diggs’s fellow receivers. Charles Johnson, for instance, now wears his shorts hiked up, though still not nearly as high as Diggs’s. Patterson said Minnesota’s pass catchers are trying to stand out because they are “divas who like to do crazy things.”
For the rest of Minnesota’s players, though, “crazy” remains the operative word.
“I don’t even know what Stef is trying to show off,” Munnerlyn said. “He has skinny legs.”