In an era of athletic specialization, Xavier Watts is going against the grain.
The 6-foot-1, 183-pound junior spent his summer crisscrossing the country attending football camps, taking unofficial campus visits and playing in AAU basketball tournaments.
Trips to Ames, Iowa, and Minneapolis for AAU basketball gave Watts an opportunity to learn more about the football programs at Iowa State and Minnesota.
Sign up for daily headlines from NEPrepZone
Get a daily roundup of game recaps, player features and more in your inbox.
His summer basketball schedule with tournaments in Indianapolis, Atlanta, Minneapolis, New York and Los Angeles caused Watts to miss some individual workout time with his Omaha Burke football team, but it didn’t affect Watts’ performance on Friday night. Burke opened the season with a 49-28 victory over Lincoln Southeast, and Watts shined with three catches for 99 yards and two touchdowns.
On the basketball court, Watts averaged 11.2 points and 1.2 steals per game his sophomore season for the Bulldogs.
Watts’ father, Jeff, is a 1999 graduate of Bellevue East, where he played football and basketball and ran track.
“I think it is important for him to not put all of his eggs in one basket right now,” the elder Watts said.
Two studies presented at the 2018 annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons found there is a psycho-social impact parents can have on their children’s sports experiences, and that 54.7 percent of parents encouraged their children to specialize in a single sport.
However, the 2015 NCAA Goals study, a survey of college athletes, found that 71 percent of Division I college football players were multisport athletes.
Jeff and his wife, Fallon, take more of an old-school mentality and advocate for playing multiple sports. “I want him to enjoy being a high school athlete because it goes by so fast,” Jeff said.
The approach, Burke football coach Paul Limongi said, is working. He calls Watts “a great kid, very respectful, who responds well to coaching” and an honor student “who prides himself on excelling on and off the field.”
Limongi added that Watts “is a tremendous talent at receiver but (is) really coming into his own at safety.”
Watts, a three-star wide receiver prospect according to the 247Sports composite rankings, holds football offers from Purdue, Iowa State, Minnesota and South Dakota State.
Game day visits to Nebraska and Notre Dame could be on the docket this fall. Northwestern, Iowa, Penn State and Mississippi State have also expressed interest.
“I want to make it to as many schools as possible for unofficial visits this football season,” Watts said. “I like to win and I want to go to a school that is a championship contender and throws the ball a lot.”
Nebraska coach Scott Frost, linebackers coach Barrett Ruud, defensive coordinator Erik Chinander and director of high school relations Kenny Wilhite have all had contact with Watts. The recruiting intensity likely will pick up in September when college recruiters can have direct contact with high school juniors via private communication.
“When Sept. 1 comes, they will start talking to me more,” Watts said. “Coach Frost told me at camp I can come to any game I want and he wants me to feel comfortable at Nebraska.”
Omaha Burke fell short of its state championship goal in 2017, losing in the semifinals to Omaha North. Watts and his teammates are looking to change that in 2018.
“We have one clear goal, and that is to win a state championship this season,” he said. “We have a lot of seniors and a good class of juniors that are hungry for a championship.”