Eskimos linebacker Diggs feeling the love from one Stampeders player, at least
No stranger to trash talking, Vontae Diggs might not have made any friends among the Calgary Stampeders in his rookie Canadian Football League season.
But there is one who will always stand by the outspoken Edmonton Eskimos linebacker.
Just as long as it’s anytime other than the 60 minutes they play against each other, of course.
Before they became provincial rivals in the Canadian Football League, Diggs and Calgary Stampeders receiver Hergy Mayala played together at the University of Connecticut.
But here, in their first season of professional football, they find themselves on opposite sides of the Battle of Alberta.
“Me and Vontae, we played together for three years,” said Mayala, a native of Montreal who was drafted in the first round (eighth overall) by the Stampeders in May. “We talk pretty much every day. He actually texted me this morning talking trash, but I was like, ‘Man, once we get this (win), you’re not going to have anything to say.’”
Indeed, Mayala landed on the side of the rivalry that had already captured the season series over the Eskimos before kicking off their third and final meeting of the regular season at Commonwealth Stadium in Saturday’s Labour Day Rematch.
But not even that was enough to stop Diggs from getting his, er, digs in on his former teammate.
“He’s always been like that and that’s where he gets his fuel from, which I respect a lot,” Mayala said ahead of Saturday’s kickoff. “If it takes him talking to get him going, I’m all for it because he’s going to bring the best out of everybody on the field.
“And he’s going to be fun. Whenever he’s having fun, we’re having fun.”
Oddly, Mayala has found the same holds true even now that the pair is on opposing sides.
But to understand Diggs and the way it all works, you have to know a bit of his backstory.
“It’s a tough one, but he’s a resilient guy and somebody that’s not going to give up,” Mayala said of Diggs, who grew up poor in the Chicago suburb of Downer’s Grove, living in apartments, hotels and even out of the family car. “You kind of expect him to just keep going and never take a knee down.
“He’s the same guy on the field, off the field. That’s what I like about him. The same trash talk he brings on the field he brings off the field, so you just get to learn how to love that and I like him as a guy. That’s it.”
There aren’t many guarantees in football, or in life.
But Trevor Harris could be sure of one: Coming into this Labour Day Series playing against a Stampeders team he’s never previously beaten in his career, he was going to be asked about it in the press.
And he’s grown more than a little tired of the question.
“Oh, yeah. For sure, definitely,” said Harris, who came into Saturday’s game with an 0-8-2 record against the Stampeders, while having beaten every other team in the CFL. “But it’s not just a Calgary thing, I think it’s just offensively us.
“We move the ball better than anybody in the league, we’re averaging however many yards we are, we’re moving the ball. We’ve just got to finish drives. That’s the thing that’s frustrating, is the small things that are happening to stall us, but we’re going to get it fixed, I can guarantee that.”
Unfortunately, Eskimos fans will have to wait to cash in on Harris’s promise as the quarterback was taken out of the lineup after the first quarter with what the club is calling an “upper-body injury.”
The extent of the injury was not known at press time.
Harris, for one, was ready in case his first Labour Day Series against Calgary got a little more physical than usual.
The Eskimos quarterback put on some boxing gloves and took a moment to hit some hand pads with a trainer prior to kickoff.
“Oh, I always do it,” Harris said. “It’s a weekly thing in the off-season and I do it every game day. I did it last year in the locker-room and this year, I do it outside because there is just no flooring in there.”
Besides physically warming up the body, the pseudo-sparring session gives Harris a chance to focus mentally.
“Mindset, aggressive mentality,” he said. “It sort of gets my blood pumping. It’s really taxing on your conditioning, it’s a different type of conditioning so you kind of get that heart rate up and get it going and it gets me sweating.
“It just gets me in a good mindset, sort of turns up my warrior dial.”
Seeing as how Harris left Saturday’s game early after appearing to hurt his throwing hand on a handoff, maybe he should have kept the gloves on.
On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge
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