Friday Night Hero: A.L. Brown’s Xavier Watson
By Mike London
KANNAPOLIS ó Teammates call him “Swat,” coaches call him “X,” and opponents call him trouble.
A.L. Brown senior strong safety Xavier Watson is the team’s most underrated player, but picks are piling up. That’s made it tough for him to lurk under the radar.
“I’ve always tried hard, but I’ve never been in the spotlight, and that’s fine,” said Watson, smiling as ticket prices for Friday’s third-round game at Charlotte Catholic were announced on the intercom. “If people think I’m playing good , I would say it’s because I’ve been coached good by Coach (James) Lott.”
At 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, Watson isn’t big, and he isn’t a burner. What he is, in the current coachspeak, is a football player. He attacks the run. He blitzes. He covers. He makes plays.
Watson said his feet went numb in last week’s biting cold, but he made his seventh pick and had six pass breakups in a tense test against Marvin Ridge.
Head coach Ron Massey always e-mails his recommendation for a Wonder hero. This time it was Watson ó with an exclamation point.”Six PBUs in one night,” declared receiver T.J. Johnson in admiration. “Man, that’s just crazy.”
Watson was All-SPC in 2007, although not everyone noticed.
“He was good last year, but this year X has really turned it on,” Lott said. “He’s been that guy for us on so many third-down stops. He’s always physical, always has an eye for the ball. He’s not that 4.4 guy, but he has game speed.
“You take away X’s picks and our season is a lot different. He’s not just having an all-conference season, he’s having an All-State season.”
Watson’s emergence as a force in the secondary has enabled James’ son, Jamill, to concentrate on playing quarterback. Prior to the season, the Wonders worried Jamill might have to play often on defense.
“To me, Swat is the best in the state,” A.L. Brown free safety Billy Simiton said. “He’s made plays against the run, plays against the pass, great plays on special teams.”
Watson began the season on the right foot with an interception against Central Cabarrus. Then he had a pick-six against Parkwood.
“I told the coaches that night I was due to get a TD,” Watson said. “Coach (Josh) Reeves said he’d bet me $10. I got the touchdown. Haven’t seen the $10.”
Watson made a first-half pick against Lake Norman in the first round of the playoffs and returned it 64 yards to the Lake Norman 9 to set up a score.
“I saw end zone and was sure I had another TD,” Watson said. “It shocked me I got caught. The guy must’ve had a heck of an angle.”
Lott, who was a great safety at Clemson, has taught Watson all the tricks of the trade.
“He’s taught me how to get on top of the ball so when I jump the ball is hitting me in the hands,” Watson said. “All the PBUs last week surprised me because I’ve been catching balls more than knocking them down.”
Brown has ended its last three seasons with a loss to Catholic, but the seniors are eager for their last shot.Watson more than most.
His brother, Trumaine, a Brown offensive lineman who now plays at Virginia Union, lost to Catholic in the 3AA Western final in 2005.
“Playing Catholic again is a real opportunity,” Watson said. “A.L. Brown teams never lack talent and never lack effort, but this year I believe we have a ton of heart coming Catholic’s way.
“This is something we need to do ó for us and for all the guys before us.”