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December 24, 2011Quandre the Giant. That's what his teammates call him. He laughs. Because he can laugh at himself. That's what confident people do.
Quandre Diggs is what's right about this Texas team. There are a lot of things Longhorns should feel good about going forward.
But let's focus on Quandre Diggs today.
What kid says one of the best learning experiences of his football career was going up against Oklahoma's receivers and getting waxed in a 55-17 rout? A mature kid. That's Diggs.
"I feel like I'm a lot different," he said. "Going out for the Rice game and playing in front of 100,000 people, that's something an 18-year-old has never done before.
"I feel like I've grown over the year and become more of a complete player. I feel like I've changed a lot, but I feel like I have a long way to go.
"Even though we lost the Oklahoma game, there's not a bigger game than that, once you get in a game like that everything slows down for you. And I just got on the same page with the other guys and things started to click."
This trip to the Holiday Bowl is special for Diggs because he's going to the home city of his older brother Quentin Jammer. The relationship between these two is beyond special.
Jammer looks out for Diggs in every way. Even during a busy NFL season and as a father of two with wife, Alicia, Jammer will find a way to watch Texas games, so he can monitor the progress of his younger brother.
"That's my role model," Diggs said. "Everything I do is because of him. I play football because of him. He's taught me so much with his game and to be a better person in life.
"The advice he gives me is priceless. He gives me football advice, but he gives me life advice. He's a great father. So he's kind of like a father-figure to me.
"He's so great with his kids, and I see that. It just makes me want to be a better person and a great dad if I ever have the opportunity to be one.
"Even on their road trips, he'll get online and watch our games. He keeps up with me. I keep up with him. Even with our conflicts on Sunday because we practice, I try to get every update I can (on the Chargers). We keep up with each other."
Diggs takes a huge amount of pride in being the younger brother of Quentin Jammer. Ask him if there's pressure to live up to his older brother's legacy at Texas and as a first-round NFL draft pick, Diggs embraces it.
"It's great to have that kind of comparison," Diggs said. "When you can be compared to an All-American, a Texas great, you'll take that and run with that.
"You want to be better than that person. That's always been my personality. I've told him since I was little that I was going to be better than him. That's what I intend to do. I know it's a tough goal. But I set high goals for myself.
"He tells me to push and wants me to be better than him. That's all you could ask from a big brother. It's great. We love each other to death. But right now, I told him, 'I love you, but I'm leading this interception race 3-0.' I feel like I'm having the better year."
Diggs is a physical corner. Manny Diaz knew from the time one of the first spring practices last year that he had something special in Diggs.
"He was born to play corner," Diaz said.
Diggs may be small - he's listed at 5-10 and 200 pounds - and that may be generous. But he learned to bring the wood at corner from his older brother, who is a solid 6-feet.
Jammer is in his 10th year as a San Diego Charger, and Diggs says his brother has worked hard to have a long NFL career.
"Quentin is just one of those guys who soaks up everything," Diggs said. "He's just a heck of a guy. He puts his talent into hard work. He's one of the most complete corners in the league to me.
"You have cover guys and tackling guys. But he's both. He's complete. He does great things on the field. And once you do great things on the field, the general manager wants to keep you around."
One of Diggs' favorite memories was visiting his brother when he was at Texas and rooming with Major Applewhite. Diggs still gives Applewhite a hard time about beating him at video games back in the day.
"I beat him (Major) at all of the video games," Diggs laughs. "He didn't have no video skills, and I let him know that still.
"Even though he's my coach, I gotta let him know. I'll say, 'You know I used to whip you in those video games. You can't too much talk about being competitive.'"
Applewhite remembers how competitive Diggs was from an early age.
"Quandre has always, from the moment I first met him - I guess he was six-seven years old - so from the time I met him in first or second grade he's always had a football in his hand," Applewhite said.
"Always had the latest stats. The latest Sportscenter highlights. He's always been a gym rat. And he's continued to be that way as he's grown up.
"He's got an infectious attitude. A lot of energy and enthusiasm. He's a guy that's a straight baller. He just loves football and loves to play sports. It doesn't matter what it is.
"At seven years old he was trying to play me on (video games). He's always been about sports. Trying to get (older brother and former Longhorn) Quentin (Jammer) and I out of the apartment. Throw the ball around with him.
"He's always been obsessed with it. And I think those are the types of guys that are ultimately the best at the sport."
Diggs proved he would be a future leader at Texas when he went into overdrive to help hold the 2011 recruiting class together. Diggs said it was a crazy time a year ago after a 5-7 season as Mack Brown replaced nine members of his staff, including seven assistant coaches before Duane Akina came back.
"I was just telling guys to be patient," Diggs said. "Things worked out exactly the way we wanted them to. We were able to hold the class together with the exception of maybe one guy (OL Christian Westerman).
"I feel like we had a great recruiting class, and I just couldn't let that go. I feel like we have a chance to be one of the best classes to come through here."
Diggs was calling other members of the class and texting them.
"When things happened, and guys started talking, I told guys to just stick in there," he said.
"All the guys were kind of nervous when the coaches left and who wouldn't be when it's the coaches who recruited you.
"They had to talk it over with their parents. Parents have to see what the coaching staff was going to look like. And once the staff started coming together, everyone was fine."
Diggs forced two turnovers in a 17-16 victory over BYU, forcing a fumble and intercepting a pass that killed BYU's final drive of the game.
He forced a fumble on special teams early in the Iowa State game that led to points; intercepted a pass against Kansas; and had 8 tackles against Missouri.
Everyone remembers the game he had against Texas A&M with an interception, three pass breakups and 180 in all-purpose yards, including an 81-yard punt return to the A&M 9 in game-changing third quarter.
For his efforts, Diggs was named a 2011 Yahoo! Sports Freshman All-American as well as the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year by the Big 12 coaches.
But when you ask Diggs about his season as a freshman in 2011, he keeps looking to the future.
"I feel like it went pretty good. It was tough early on, some ups and downs. But that's life. You just have to move on and continue to get better," Diggs said, referring to the OU game.
"I feel like with a great guy like Coach (Duane) Akina pushing me, I have no choice but to get better. I know I'm not where I want to be at, so I just keep working to get better."
And that starts with the Holiday Bowl on Wednesday.
"It's important to get to eight wins, because that will jumpstart us for next year."
Quandre the Giant is someone and something to feel good about this holiday season.
Merry Christmas. Happy holidays.