One in a series looking at top recruits for the 2019 football season.
Even Fadil Diggs, considered among the top defensive players in the country, was shocked when college recruiters were finally allowed to contact him during his junior season at Woodrow Wilson.
“Every school was contacting me beginning at [midnight], and the phone got crazy,” Diggs said.
“It’s been pretty crazy,” said Wilson coach Preston Brown, who earned his own scholarship to Tulane after also starring at Wilson.
There was good reason for the attention. At 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, the tight end/defensive end is an excellent passing target and a devastating pass rusher. Last season, he had 30 receptions for 410 yards and five touchdowns at tight end and 12 sacks on defense.
So, after collecting 35 scholarship offers, Diggs made an oral commitment to Texas A&M in the spring. He is projected by scouts as either an outside linebacker or defensive end for the Southeastern Conference team.
He said his other finalists were Florida and Penn State.
Diggs said a big factor in his decision was a local connection. Texas A&M’s defensive line coach is Elijah Robinson, a Wilson graduate and most recently an assistant coach at Baylor.
Robinson, a 2008 Penn State graduate, has also been an assistant coach at Temple and a graduate assistant at Penn State.
“Me and [Robinson] can relate to each other,” Diggs said. “He went to Wilson and came from Camden, and me and him can talk if I am not feeling comfortable."
NCAA rules prohibit coaches from commenting on recruits until they sign letters of intent, and this year’s early signing period is Dec. 18-20. For Diggs, recruiting likely won’t end until he signs his letter.
“Even with him [orally] committed, there are schools ... still trying to recruit him,” Brown said.
Diggs insists that he has made his choice and is sticking to it.
Well before he attended Wilson, Diggs was familiar with recruiting.
“He was being recruited by all the different [high schools] before he came here,” Brown said. “When you are 6-4, 200 pounds coming out of Little League football in South Jersey, everybody is going to want you.”
With speed as well as talent, Diggs also runs track. He said he has run 11.1 seconds in the 100 meters and 4.6 in the 40-yard dash.
“He is a phenomenal athlete -- weight, size, speed -- but with the will of wanting to be the best. That is what stands out and separates him,” said Wilson defensive line coach Nyere Aumaitre, another former star at Wilson who went on to play at Iowa and in the Canadian and Arena football leagues.
Diggs said he did his homework during his recruiting process. He made unofficial visits to Texas A&M, Florida, Penn State, Virginia Tech, and LSU.
He said Texas A&M and the SEC are a perfect fit.
“Me playing against the top guys -- Alabama, Kentucky, LSU -- I feel like I am testing my skill level by going against those dudes every year,” Diggs said.
While Diggs said he enjoyed his recruiting experience, he’s glad it’s over.
“When I made the decision, I felt bad for all the other schools because they were still texting me,” he said.
But it’s better for him.