Why Football Is So Much More Than a Game to the Buffalo Bills' Stefon Diggs

Unapologetically passionate about football, Buffalo Bills star Stefon Diggs talked to E! News about taking the team's playoff loss hard but being endlessly inspired by Damar Hamlin's recovery.

By Natalie Finn Feb 12, 2023 3:00 PMTags
Watch: Stefon Diggs Reflects on Teammate Damar Hamlin's Collapse

Like the millions of people watching Monday Night Football from their couches on Jan. 2, Stefon Diggs didn't immediately know what to expect, either.

His Buffalo Bills teammate Damar Hamlin had just collapsed, nine minutes into their game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Players from both sides circled the area of the field where medical personnel administered CPR and used a defibrillator on the 24-year-old—who had suffered a cardiac arrest, seconds after getting to his feet following a routine-looking tackle.

Fast-forward to Feb. 9, when Hamlin appeared at the annual NFL Honors ceremony and thanked everyone who'd saved his life. But on that upsetting night last month that sent shockwaves through the sporting world, no one knew if he would pull through. And for what felt like an interminably long time, it was unclear whether or not the game was even over.

"There was a debate, would we have to go back out there?" Diggs recalled in an exclusive interview with E! News, explaining what he felt his responsibility was as a team captain in that moment. "I was trying to get them mentally prepared, try to be in the right mindset—but more so, like, 'Okay, you play for your brother, stay motivated.'"

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Ultimately, they didn't have to do that, the NFL officially suspending play at 10:01 p.m. ET—66 minutes after Hamlin's collapse.

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And once it was clear that the game would, in fact, not go on, Diggs took off for University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where Hamlin had been taken by ambulance.

"I went over to the hospital just to check on my brother because, at the end of the day, all football aside, I just want to know he's okay," the 29-year-old said. "I love this game, I love playing this game. And I know he loves this game." (True story: Two days into his hospital stay, awake but still on a ventilator, Hamlin scribbled, "Did we win?" on a notepad.)  

"It was a lot for everybody to have went through," Diggs reflected. "To know that he's on the other end, it's like a breath of fresh air. I kept saying, the higher powers answered our call. So that feels good."

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But he was hardly the only one breathing easier once Hamlin was said to be out of the woods.

"Damn, everybody took a second," Diggs said of the outpouring of support for the young safety, not just from the legendary "Bills Mafia" fandom but from all over the country, including the masses that funneled $4.1 million in donations overnight to a Pittsburgh toy drive Hamlin was supporting. "Humanity is real, know what I'm saying? There's still some good people in the world."

Diggs, wearing a natty gray suit and presumably smelling fantastic thanks to his collaboration with Downy Unstopables—"My mom always tells me, 'Make sure you're smelling good, make sure you're looking the part,'" he explained the motivation for being a face of the laundry scent booster—chatted with E! on Zoom from the media complex in Glendale, Ariz., where Super Bowl LVII will be played Sunday.

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"I think Kansas City's got it, but Philadelphia has a great defense and their offense is playing really well," Diggs noted. "It's gonna be a fun game to watch."

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Of course, he'd rather be playing in it, his reaction to the Bills AFC playoff loss to the Bengals making headlines after he almost walked right out of the locker room, still wearing his gear, rather than stick around for the postgame commiseration.

Diggs did rejoin the group, and later Bills Coach Sean McDermott told reporters that he wouldn't want a player "that doesn't hurt."

If he could do it over again, though, Diggs told E!, "I probably wouldn't have walked out. It was just a moment of frustration, so much time put in. But that's the only thing if I could take back I would. Just because I love my guys, and I have utmost respect and appreciation for them, so I hope they understand—and they did."

His approach can be summed up by the tweet he fired off the next day: "Want me to be okay with losing ? Nah."

And the Bills' roller-coaster season only made him more passionate about the sport he loves so much.

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"I'll forever wear my emotions on my sleeve," Diggs explained. "This isn't just a game for me, I put a lot of time in it—and people don't really understand it. With the Damar Hamlin situation, that's when you realize that it's more than a game. It's damn near everything to us, especially when he comes to and says, 'Did we win?'"

That, for Diggs, says it all.

"The thing that people see as just entertainment, we're giving it everything we got," he continued. "This job involves a lot of passion, a lot of aggression—you gotta really, really love this game to play this game. So, I could never apologize for my emotions. I'm more so just thankful that I got 'em, because I know some people that don't care. But I really do."


Diggs, who's also the father of 6-year-old daughter Nova, passed that intensity on to younger brother Trevon Diggs, 24, who was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 2020 and is already a two-time Pro Bowl selection. Let's just say, it's a good thing mom Stephanie Diggs enjoys traveling.

"It's surreal, because that just never really happens," Diggs (a three-time selection) said, his fraternal pride obvious. There are other pairs of brothers in the league, he noted (Super Bowl-bound Travis Kelce and Jason Kelce, who play for the Chiefs and Eagles, respectively, among them), "but just a couple of others playing at a high level."

Diggs added, laughing, "I'm just happy that one of my brothers is one of the players playing at a high level! When I see my brother out there ballin', I'm like, 'Ah, there you go, there you go. There he is!' It's a proud moment."

Knowing Trevon is succeeding, he added, "My mind's at ease."

And after this season, he'll take it.

Don't miss the 2022 Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 13 with kick-off starting at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT on NBC and Peacock.