Going against adversity was never a problem for junior wide receiver Xavier Weaver.
His high school, Orlando Christian Prep, isn’t known for generating high-level football talent. In fact, the school had never had a player sign to an FBS program until Weaver did in 2018.
“[Sometimes] we’re kind of overlooked [because] we’re a small fish in a big pond,” Weaver’s high school coach, Guerschom Demosthenes, said.
Weaver posted some impressive numbers at Orlando Christian Prep — 2,124 receiving yards and 32 total touchdowns in 34 appearances — and came out of school ranked as a three-star recruit by 247Sports.
He knew as long as he performed and controlled what he could, he would eventually start to hear from big-time collegiate programs.
“It felt really good to be the first player to [sign to an FBS team from my high school],” Weaver said. “Like my old coaches told me, ‘If you’re good at football, then [colleges are] going to find you.’ So, just coming out of a small school and still being able to do it, it’s a blessing.”
Weaver fielded offers from 16 schools including Wake Forest, UTSA, East Carolina, Charlotte and, of course, USF.
Committing to the Bulls in July 2018 and later signing a letter of intent in December was the culmination of years of hard work for Weaver and a moment of proving his doubters wrong.
Aside from playing for a small school that lacked media attention, Weaver was often told his body type — 6-feet-1-inches tall, 178 pounds — simply wasn’t cut out for the next level.
“I didn’t think it was possible to play college football because everybody was always saying that I’m too small, or too little or stuff like that,” Weaver said. “I always kept faith and I committed to USF in my junior year in high school and it’s only been up from that point.”
That mindset of always believing and shrugging off external criticism was something Weaver had since his youth, and it’s a quality that Demosthenes said he always admired his former playmaker for.
Anytime somebody doubted Weaver, he always knew how to put that talk away by performing on the field, according to Demosthenes.
“What I’m most proud about that young man is that he didn’t let size or anything stop him,” Demosthenes said. “What he did to compensate that talk was [elevate] his play on the field … He has shown that he’s a high-level receiver that can go play in any program.”
Establishing himself as USF’s primary receiver took some time, however. Weaver played in 20 games over the first two seasons of his collegiate career, making his presence felt with 22 catches for 302 yards, but he never truly took over like he has in 2021.
Weaver has career-highs across the board in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns, a feat he attributes to the work he’s put into his craft.
“Just practicing and working on my skills helps me a lot because if you don’t work on it, you’re not going to get any better at it,” he said. “Once [it clicks in] reps [at] practice, then it comes naturally to you [in games].”
With his role established and the 2021 season coming to an end, Weaver said he believes the Bulls are close to breaking through.
“We’re not where we want to be right now, [but] people need to keep believing in us because we’re not really under the light right now and nobody really sees us,” Weaver said.
“[There’s been some] small plays this season that’s been keeping us from getting more victories, but we’re coming.”