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Jets draft Argos CB Stiggers in fifth round of NFL Draft

Qwan'tez Stiggers Toronto Argonauts Qwan'tez Stiggers - The Canadian Press

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Qwan'tez Stiggers thought his NFL dream ended nearly four years ago.

After his father died in a car accident in September 2020, Stiggers dealt with depression and he dropped out of college.

His focus was centered on improving his mental health and supporting his family. It was a long, emotional personal journey that saw him eventually return to football and — seemingly against all odds — be capped by a moment he once thought not possible.

Stiggers, coming off a successful stint in the CFL where the cornerback was selected the league's most outstanding rookie, was taken by the New York Jets on Saturday in the fifth round of the NFL draft as the 176th overall pick.

And that's despite never playing a snap of college football. He's believed to be the first CFL player drafted by an NFL team without any college playing experience.

“I might not have gone the round I wanted to go in, but at the end of the day, I love that the Jets selected me," Stiggers said in a video call with reporters before adding a message to teams that passed on him.

“I'm going to make them pay,” he said. "They’re going to have to pay all year.”

With all he has overcome to get here, it's tough to doubt Stiggers.

He grew up in the Atlanta area as one of 13 children, and attended a small high school where he played several sports — but was outstanding at football. He played multiple positions, but settled on cornerback and was enrolled to play at Division II Lane College, an HBCU in Jackson, Tennessee.

The COVID-19 pandemic robbed Stiggers of his freshman season.

Tragedy nearly ended his football career.

On Feb. 14, 2020, Stiggers' father Rayves Harrison was in a car accident that left him in a coma. Seven months later, Harrison died — and Stiggers had a tough time mourning his loss.

He pulled himself out of school and worked several different jobs to help his family put meals on the table.

“It just kind of put my dreams on hold,” Stiggers said.

His mother Kwanna refused to let her son not pursue them.

Through an online ad, she found the Fan Controlled League, an indoor football league that played its games at the Pullman Yards in Atlanta. So she signed up her son to play.

Stiggers took his mother's suggestion and tried out. He ended up playing during the 2022 season. Football became fun again, and he caught the eye of some CFL teams.

“I thank God and I thank my mom for signing me up,” Stiggers said. “And the sky ... I'm going beyond the sky now.”

But first came a trip up north to Canada, where Stiggers signed with Toronto Argonauts and made the team out of training camp.

He quickly became a starter and had five interceptions on his way to being selected the league's most outstanding rookie, a CFL East All-Star — and earning an invitation to the East-West Shine Bowl, the postseason college football all-star game.

“I was just looking for the opportunity, but it ended up being more than an opportunity,” Stiggers said. “It ended up being a life-changing year for me where I could chase my dreams to go to the NFL.”

Stiggers' play in the CFL had NFL teams intrigued. And the Jets were one of them. Still eligible because he never played in college, he went through the draft process.

Jets cornerbacks coach Tony Oden met with Stiggers for a private workout, and then New York brought him to the team's facility for a visit.

And on Saturday, Stiggers got the call from the Jets saying they were taking him in the fifth round.

“It’s going to be a blast,” he said. "I’m going to put on a show.”

In many ways, Stiggers already has.

“It’s just believing in those who believe in you,” he said. “I say that because my mom, my fiancée and then ... everybody in my family really believed in me and helped push me to get back in football.”