Throughout the first three seasons of his NFL career, Terry McLaurin has rarely engaged in any physical confrontation with opponents outside of normal game action.
Yet, during the Washington Football Team's first matchup against rival Dallas in 2020, McLaurin got into it with Cowboys then-rookie cornerback Trevon Diggs after one second-quarter play. Then, on the very next snap, McLaurin dusted Diggs for a 52-yard touchdown.
McLaurin said at the time the back-and-forth between him and Diggs was nothing personal, rather just two competitors going at it. Unfortunately, the two have not matched up again since, as Diggs was injured for Washington's Thanksgiving victory over Dallas last season.
That all changes this Sunday, though, as plenty of eyes will be on the McLaurin-Diggs matchup when Dallas comes to Washington in a crucial NFC East contest. Speaking with reporters on Thursday, McLaurin said he has plenty of respect for Diggs and emphasized that he's looking forward to facing the Cowboys standout defensive back.
"I think he's a really good player. I thought that last year as well," McLaurin said. "One of the things I liked about his game is he's really competitive. I'm a competitive person, too. So it makes for a fun game."
While Diggs did not have as much to add when asked about McLaurin on Thursday, the Cowboys cornerback has respect for the Washington wideout, too.
"He's a good receiver. One of the better receivers in our division," Diggs told local Dallas media. When asked what makes McLaurin special, a smiling Diggs responded "look at the tape."
A lot has changed since that last matchup between McLaurin and Diggs. After a promising rookie season in 2020, Diggs has emerged as a star. He leads the NFL in interceptions with nine and is a legit Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
Diggs' ball-hawking ability dates back to his high school days. The Cowboys cornerback is a DMV native -- he said Thursday he's expecting 40 friends and family to be in attendance at FedEx Field in support -- and starred as a wide receiver and cornerback at both Wootton High School in Rockville, Md. and The Avalan School in Wheaton, Md. under coach Tyree Spinner.
Diggs then went on to play for the powerhouse University of Alabama, where he was originally recruited as a wideout. Diggs played receiver for the Crimson Tide for one season before head coach Nick Saban moved him to cornerback -- a move that Diggs admitted made him cry.
The move from receiver to cornerback clearly paid off, as McLaurin believes that Diggs' past experience as a wideout has helped him become one of the NFL's best defensive backs.
"He's a dude who does a good job getting his hands on a lot of balls," McLaurin said. "I think he has a good understanding of how receivers try to get open because he has that receiver background."
For McLaurin, the 26-year-old has continued to get better each season and remains one of the best young wideouts in the sport. McLaurin has been the focal point of Washington's offense for three years running, but his responsibilities figure to increase even more with tight end Logan Thomas out for the remainder of the year with a knee injury. That begins this Sunday vs. Dallas.
"I expect them to use him as much as they can," Diggs said.
McLaurin knows he'll have his hands full on Sunday battling against Diggs, but is looking forward to the challenge and hopes his past success against the cornerback can carry over to this season.
"I'm looking forward to competing against him," McLaurin said.