The Wolverine

November 2020

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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40 THE WOLVERINE NOVEMBER 2020 BY EJ HOLLAND X avier Worthy quit before the end of his first year of football. Now a Rivals100 Michigan wide receiver commit, Worthy recalls the temper tantrums he used to throw on the field. His mother, Nicky, and Uncle Nick even tease about the end- less amounts of tears that flooded the field. No, Worthy didn't quit because he warmed the bench. It was actually quite the contrary. Worthy quit be- cause, well, he was too good. You don't hear that very often when it comes to youth sports, but Worthy, a rail-thin first-grader at the time, was taking a beating. He played basically every position for a fairly new squad that got taken to the woodshed on a consistent basis by far more experienced programs. "That's the only time I've ever let him quit in his entire life," Nicky said. "They made him play quarter- back, wide receiver, punt returner, kick returner and even punter. "He was the best one on the team, and he was getting beat up every game. It was bad. He was getting torn up. It wasn't safe." Worthy, tired of hearing his mom talk about his punishment in Pop Warner, interjected. "But I had a 100 yards every game," he noted. "At least 100 yards. Tell him that." It's true. Worthy has always been a level — or two or three — above his peers. It's evident in the youth high- lights Nicky proudly plays on the family television in the living room. It quickly becomes apparent Worthy is playing at a different speed than his counterparts. Even before the youth league foot- ball games, Uncle Nick saw that Xavier was not only athletically gifted — his nephew had the chance to be special. "I always knew," Nick said. "I used to take him to work with me. He wasn't even in kindergarten yet. He was playing soccer with sixth graders. They wanted him on their team. I was like, 'This kid is going to be good.' Every step of the way, he stepped up. I never felt nervous about him being great." Great, he would be. Worthy returned to the football field three years after throwing in the towel. And he put on quite the show, scoring multiple touchdowns every game. Despite his thin frame, he earned the nickname 'Lil Thumper' because he used to demolish kids from his linebacker spot. "I was always the smallest on the field," Worthy recalled. "I felt like I had to prove myself. I was a line- backer, and I was banging. Uncle Nick will confirm that. I was running people over." Mom wasn't satisfied, though. "He was always that kid in Pop Warner that scored three or four touchdowns," Nicky said. "He could have had five or six if he wasn't do- ing all those extra jukes. "I used to work the chain gang just so I could be down there and be like, 'What are you doing?'" Nicky was always worried that the curve was going to catch up to her son. While he wasn't short, he never added weight. Even as a junior last season, Worthy played at just 145 pounds. Unless you're Baltimore Ravens wideout Marquise "Holly- wood" Brown — who is listed at 5-9, 180 pounds, but checked in at just 166 pounds at the 2019 NFL Combine — that usually doesn't work out at the next level. Still, Worthy continued to make highlight play after highlight play. His first play in high school was a kickoff return for a touchdown. "I thought, 'Maybe he's going to keep getting better and better,'" Nicky said. "It was crazy. My brother always said he had it. "I always asked if he was going to level out. He got to high school and started on JV. He was the star there as a freshman. He was killing it." Wo r t h y, w h o s e n i c k n a m e d changed from 'Lil Thumper' to 'The   FOOTBALL RECRUITING Xavier Worthy Is This Recruiting Cycle's Biggest Riser After being initially listed as a three-star prospect, Worthy jumped up to four-star status and was ranked as the nation's No. 10 wideout and No. 57 overall senior by PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM

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