Vontae Diggs spent much of his childhood homeless. Now, he’s an early college graduate who has hopes of hearing his name announced during the 2018 NFL Draft, WBBM-TV reports.
What’s his story?
Diggs was born in Las Vegas, and moved with his mother and brother to Chicago when he was 5 years old. His father, Vincent Diggs, still lives in Las Vegas.
Diggs’ mother, Robin Jones, had trouble keeping jobs long term. For a while, that meant frequent moves from one apartment to another. However, as the struggles continued, eventually they found themselves living in a hotel room and, finally, a car.
Diggs would sleep in the back of an Oldsmobile with his mother and brother up front. In the morning, he would wash himself up at a nearby McDonald's restaurant before going to school.
Eventually, his mother had to move back to Chicago from the suburb of Downers Grove where Diggs had been attending school and playing football. Thriving at his school, Diggs told his mother he needed to stay.
“He broke down and cried and said ‘If I go back to the city, I’m going to get killed,’” Jones said to the Hartford Courant in 2016. “I had to let him stay there. It broke my heart, but what was I to do? I didn’t want to feel like I was abandoning him.”
How did he turn his life around?
Diggs continued to excel as a football player in Downers Grove and survived by hopping from one friend’s house to another and sleeping on park benches at times.
Eventually, the family of his two closest friends, Tony and Andrew Zea, took him into their home to give him a stability he had never known.
He played his way into multiple scholarship offers, eventually attending the University of Connecticut, where he graduated in 3 1/2 years and started his last two seasons for the UConn football team as a linebacker.
Now, Diggs is an NFL longshot, but he said he feels fortunate to even have the opportunity to possibly be a professional football player.
And even if that dream doesn’t pan out, Diggs said he wants to inspire younger generations by becoming a high school guidance counselor.
“If I can touch a little kid … they see me playing, they hear my story, ‘Oh, I can go do something like this,’” Diggs said.