Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2022

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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16 FEBRUARY 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED defeat and a suboptimal personal per- formance had already begun to set in. Diggs rushed nine times for 29 yards and caught four passes for 21 yards. Fifty yards from scrimmage wasn't supposed to be in the offing with junior running back Kyren Williams opting out. This was Diggs' chance to spring into 2022 on a high note. To set some personal bests in the biggest game of the year. It didn't happen that way. But it didn't take anything away from what Diggs can be in an Irish uniform going forward, ei- ther. Too much had gone right before it all went wrong to think otherwise. "We need to go back to the Virginia Tech game," offensive coordinator Tommy Rees said. "Our season is on the line. Chris [Tyree] and Kyren are both out. Logan's in there — game on the line, two-minute drives, protection, receiver out of the backfield. He was able to step into that moment and really own it. "From there, I thought you saw week to week his game improve. There's a maturity and patience to his game. His ability to see things, react, keep things vertical on the front side when he needs to, not afraid to find the backside cut for a home run. We saw that early in camp." But not late in camp. Diggs contracted COVID toward the end of it but still managed to turn himself into the team's No. 2 running back behind Williams when sophomore Tyree was hampered by a turf toe injury. That was no small feat considering the circumstances. Camp is a critical time for true fresh- men to make an impression on the coach- ing staff. Diggs did that up until he tested positive for the virus. Then came a two- week waiting game when all he could do was sit in his room and think about juk- ing defenders and scoring touchdowns in practice so Rees could take notice. For someone who's capable of actu- ally physically doing that as easily as someone presses a button on a video- game controller, the most frustrating thing is being told you can't. "It sucks," Diggs said of quarantine. "You're literally just sitting there. You feel perfectly fine, but you're thinking, 'Bro, I still have to stay in here for 12 more days.' The days go by long and slow." The last thing Diggs was going to let it do was defeat him, though. "I just had to stay confident through it all because without confidence, you have nothing." Diggs didn't break out the Xbox. He didn't waste his time on other technology. He studied film, showered, slept, studied more film and slept some more. He might have needed to get his legs back under him when he returned to the field in Septem- ber, but he was going to be mentally locked in. There was no reason for him not to be. That type of discipline manifested during Diggs' high school career at Me- tairie (La.) Archbishop Rummel under former head coach Jay Roth's guidance. "He's conscientious about everything he does, on the field, off the field, how he plays, how he studies, who he's com- peting against," Roth said. "He's very aware of his surroundings. He's just a unique kid." Too conscientious at times, perhaps. The summer of 2021 wasn't too kind to Diggs even before he came down with COVID. The rigor of being a student at Notre Dame slapped him in the face upon arrival. Roth recalled a phone call with Diggs in which he said he missed home. Louisiana is a long way from northern Indiana. Just ask former Irish head coach Brian Kelly. The reality of being a freshman run- ning back behind established veter- ans on the depth chart combined with schoolwork like he'd never seen before and nearly 1,000 miles of Midwest and southern terrain separating him from home really weighed on Diggs before the season began. But he got over it. Just like he did the dog days of quarantine. Just like he plans to do with the upsetting Fiesta Bowl outing. Diggs isn't short on confi- dence when his mind is right. Because without it, he has nothing. "I'd say from Day 1, he's had a big swagger and confidence to him that was noticeable," Notre Dame graduate se- nior quarterback Jack Coan said. "I feel like I've grown a lot, especially mentally," Diggs added. "Notre Dame is a challenge. It's going to push you to be the best you can be. Everything that I've been put through has been a test. That's going to help me have a successful ca- reer here." ✦ Diggs rushed nine times for 29 yards and caught four passes for 21 yards in the Irish's 37-35 loss to Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER "Notre Dame is a challenge. It's going to push you to be the best you can be. Everything that I've been put through has been a test." DIGGS

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