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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: WAVERLY'S WATSON VERBALLY COMMITS TO PLAY AT DIVISION I UCONN (2024-07-05)

By TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
WAVERLY -- Fresh off a state championship season, and being a first-team all-state selection, Waverly’s Xavier Watson has made a verbal commitment to play his college football at Division I Connecticut.

Watson, who will be a senior at Waverly this fall, said he was sold on UConn the first time he visited.

“The first time I went to UConn it was for an unofficial visit to watch a practice. I drove in the night before because it’s a 4 1/2-hour drive … I got there at 8:30 and coach (Christian) Pace, the area recruiter and my position recruiter, was there to meet me at the hotel,” said Watson. That really started it, just showing me how much they wanted me.

“I visited the facilities, toured the campus … I just loved it,” he noted. “It was my favorite place to that point, and we hadn’t even talked offer.

“Then, we went and watched some film, he showed me where I would be playing, and how they would be using me,” continued Watson. “It sounded like it would be the best fit for my position.

“After that, they offered me a full scholarship, and that’s everything I’ve ever worked for,” he added.

Watson received 11 other scholarship offers from Division I schools, including  Army, West Virginia, Syracuse, Temple Columbia, Cornell, Colgate, and Fordham.

Waverly coach Jason Miller has been impressed by Watson’s work ethic

“Xavier’s desire to become a better player with his dedication to training, whether with our staff, BX training, regional 7-v-7 travel team, or running track has been impressive.

“I am very proud of Xavier, but we are gonna push him very hard to be prepared to enter UConn ready to compete immediately,” Miller said.

Miller also credited Watson’s mother, Jamie Rauscher, for her role in his success.

“His mother has provided him with every possible opportunity to be what he has become,” said Miller. “She has dedicated herself to him in a very special way.

“And, it paid off, she won't pay a dime for his education; that's the greatest reward of all for their commitment and focus,” he added.

Oddly enough, Watson, who stands 6-5 and weight 212 pounds, wasn’t even on the recruiting radar a year ago.

As a sophomore at Athens, Watson had 24 catches for 344 yards, and two TDs, and was plagued by drops.

Last fall at Waverly, he had 62 receptions for 917 yards, and led N.Y. State with 17 TD catches. He also carried the ball twice for 45 yards, and returned a kickoff 85 yards for a TD in his first game with the Wolverines.

So what clicked for Watson?

“I feel like I’ve always had the athleticism and ability to be the player I am now, but when I transferred last summer … the coaching, and the fundamentals Coach Miller and his staff teach you as a football player took me to the next level,” said Watson.

Miller believes a large part of Watson’s “improvement” came from within.

“To be honest, he was not a great football player when he came to us,” said Miller. “He worked really hard, and gained a tremendous amount of confidence in himself, which I think he lacked.

“I think our system helped a lot. We wanted to utilize his height, and his strengths,” said Miller. “And, (assistant coach) Peyton (Miller) had a huge impact on Xavier’s development as a wide receiver.”

One thing Miller and Watson agree on is having Division I William & Mary-bound Joey Tomasso throwing him the ball paid big dividends.

“He was fortunate to have Joey (Tomasso) as his quarterback to get him the ball,” said Miller.

“Xavier’s a freak athlete,” added Miller. “He has the size, his speed for the high school level is good, and he works so damn hard.”

“It was great playing with Joey,” said Watson. “It was great to learn with it’s like to play with a quarterback like him … he’s playing Division I too, so I got a head start playing with a quarterback of that caliber, and learning how they think, how they throw the ball, and what they look for.”

Watson said the state title run was big for him in terms of getting eyes on his game, and so were his summer workouts.

“Being able to show out on a big stage like the state championship game shows coaches you have what it takes to play at the next level.

“The summer, though, was the biggest thing,” said Watson. “When coaches are coming to the school to watch you work out, or you’re going to their campuses to work out for them, you get to show them what you can do — and that’s really big when you’re from a small town like this.”

Still, how does someone go from off the radar to a Division I program on a full scholarship in one year? Watson gives a great deal of credit to Rob Baxter, who owns and operates BX Strength & Speed out of the Waverly Sports Complex.

“The first week I was at BX, Rob (Baxter) saw me work out, and he put me on to coaches he knew, one of them being a coach from Army,” said Watson. “I was offered by them the next week, after I went on a visit, and they learned a little bit more about me.

“(Baxter) really kick-started all my recruiting,” noted Watson. “Throughout the entire process, he was sending to me all the coaches he knew, and all the networks he has been a part of, and giving me the best advice he could.”

Baxter believes Watson is a product of his own dedication.

“Xavier is just a special kid,” he said. “So talented, with an upside that is through the roof, in my opinion, but the really cool thing is how intelligent and humble he is.

“He just goes about his business day after day,” noted Baxter. “I love the fact he wants to be great and commits himself to what is required to do so.

“UConn is getting a player that hasn’t even scratched the surface of how good he will become in the future,” added Baxter. “He’s just great pick up for Coach (Jim) Mora and the Husky football program.”

Watson knows there is still work to be done before he plays at the next level.

“I feel my biggest weakness is probably my speed, so that’s what I’ve been working on the most,” said Watson. “I did track this spring, and we have some great coaches who helped me get faster.

“I’m working on everything,” he added. “I know my strengths, and I know my weaknesses. I know what I need to work on the most.”

Miller agrees with Watson.

“At the next level, he’s going to have to continue to get faster,” he said. “(Waverly track coach) Dave Hogan was a tremendous help to him this spring.”

Watson will be playing a hybrid tight end spot at UConn, which it refers to as the “flex” position.

“He’s going to have to learn to box people in the box, which will be different — and he won’t be learning that this year,” laughed Miller, who noted Watson will remain at wide receiver for the Wolverines this fall.

“His biggest challenge is he’s going to have to block D-I linebackers, and occasionally will have to block a D-I defensive end, depending on the play,” said Miller. “They run a lot of pin-and-pull, so from that flex position, he’ll be blocking down into the box.”

Miller is confident Watson will make the proper adjustments, and succeed at the next level.
 
“He has really good hips,” he said. “He’s really good in the weight room for his size — he cleans tremendously, he has a great squat … the foundation of strength is there, and it’s only going to get better and better.

“He’s a kid who will just continue to develop throughout college, and he’s going to a great college that develops tight ends,” noted Miller. “They had a tight end transfer to Iowa last season for his fifth year, then he was drafted.

“I think UConn is a really good fit for Xavier,” he added.

Miller also believes Watson could see playing time early on for the Huskies.

“I think he has a chance to get on the field as a freshman,” said Miller. “He was the only tight end they signed … I think he’s their guy, and they’ll package him pretty early in his career.”

——————

IN PHOTO 1: Waverly’s Xavier Watson makes an athletic TD grab in his first game for the Wolverines. … PHOTO BY TIM BIRNEY —  IN TOP PHOTO: Xavier Watson in his commitment photo from the UConn Sports Information Department.


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