It was an act of desperation.
Since no college coaches had reached out to Isaiah Diggs, he reached out to them, sending emails to more than 100 schools. He told them he’d walk on, try out, do anything. All he wanted was an opportunity.
Athletically, Diggs has a résumé — and highlight tape — that fits the mold of an NCAA Division I football player. The Decatur High School graduate is The News Tribune’s 2014-15 Male Senior Athlete of the Year for his electric play on the football field, three state wrestling medals (including a 138-pound Class 3A state title), reaching the state track and field championships and earning a 3.56 grade-point average.
But how many come from a team that went 2-18 over two seasons? And aren’t tall enough to reach the top shelf at the grocery store?
Decatur football coach Levi Suiaunoa said Diggs is 5-foot-3. Diggs disagrees.
“I am 5-5 1/2. I have been to the doctor many times,” Diggs said. “I’m not 5-3, at all.”
Either way, it’s why Diggs had such a difficult time getting scholarship offers, Suiaunoa said.
“I’ve been told I’m too small and that I should focus on wrestling because what football players make it to the NFL or college that are 5-6?” said Diggs, who weighs 160 pounds. “And that most of those kids that do, go to high schools that win 10 games. That just makes me mad. That makes me want to prove everybody wrong.”
Diggs was sitting in class when he checked his email and saw one coach replied. It was Gordy Anderson from Washington State University — the South Kitsap graduate who walked on to WSU football team in 2010-11.
“He said, ‘Hey, we would love to have you come out here, walk on and earn a scholarship.’ And I grabbed (classmate Moses Griffin) and I was like, ‘Bro, do you see this? Do you see this right here?’ ” Diggs said. “ ‘This is an email from Washington State University. This is a real coach.’
“And I jumped up and started yelling. And I was like, ‘Whooo,’ and the teacher was like, ‘What, what?’ ... I was like, ‘I told you, I told everybody I’m going to be on TV and I’m about to be on TV finally.’ ”
Diggs had the second-most all-purpose yards in the 4A SPSL this past season, behind only Federal Way’s Chico McClatcher, who received a scholarship from the University of Washington. Diggs was a receiver, running back, defensive back, kick returner and even quarterback.
“His skill set allowed us to do a lot of things,” Suiaunoa said. “But a lot of folks don’t know how much of a student of the game he is, too.”
He used to also play basketball, even at what he said was “maybe 5 foot, 100 pounds” through middle school. He took up wrestling because he was told it would help him in football.
“I just thought I’d show up and make (the coaches) happy,” Diggs said. “I was like, ‘I will show up for a day or two to make them happy and then I’ll just leave because I’m not going to enjoy it.’ My coach was like, ‘At least stay until your first match.’
“And I wrestled my first match and I won. I pinned the kid. I was like, ‘Wow, I might actually be good at this.’ ”
Diggs said he wouldn’t have continued past his sophomore year had he not placed third at Mat Classic that season. He then won the 138-pound state title the following year before losing to Rogers’ Ty Wilson in the 4A 152-pound title match his senior season.
He also competed on Decatur’s state 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams.
But his first love is football, something Decatur athletic director Korey Sites said he saw long before Diggs got to high school.
Sites, a former assistant coach for the football team, said Diggs would show up to practices as a fourth grader when Diggs’ half-brother, Jacques Williams, was a freshman.
“We used to do sprints by position group and Diggs would be on the sideline, running with whichever group went first and he wouldn’t take breaks,” Sites said. “He was honestly showing up some of our best athletes. He was doing it for fun when most of our top guys wanted to tap out.
“Honestly, that’s kind of how Diggs is. He’s relentless.”
Diggs said he studies NFL players such as Tavon Austin, T.Y. Hilton, Brandin Cooks and Darren Sproles, who are all 5-10 and under.
“I pray every night that I can have the opportunity to play (at WSU) and that if I get the opportunity, I could show them that I can play and that I should get a scholarship,” Diggs said. “I just really hope I can get the opportunity and that Coach (Mike) Leach and all of them just give me one opportunity. I just need that one chance.”