Freshman Xavier Worthy took circuitous path to become Texas’ top receiver

Nathan Han, Sports Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the September 24 Double Coverage flipbook.

Ever since Xavier Worthy first stepped foot on the Forty Acres, his teammates have been raving about his potential.

Defensive tackle Keondre Coburn called the freshman wide receiver a “Tyreek Hill in college.” Sophomore running back Bijan Robinson compared Worthy to current Denver Bronco and first-round draft pick wide receiver Jerry Jeudy. The wideout himself said he models his game after a different former Alabama wide receiver — Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith.

But in Worthy’s first two games, the No. 1 receiver on the depth chart caught only one pass for 34 yards and two passes for 41 yards against Louisiana and Arkansas, respectively.

Then, last Saturday against Rice, Worthy showed college football fans what all the hype is about. He caught seven passes for 88 yards, scored his first collegiate touchdown and, most importantly, earned the trust of his offensive playcaller.

“I think he’s got a real internal drive about him,” Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian said. “He was coming here to play. He wasn’t going to wait his turn, and he’s earned everything that he’s gotten.”

But Worthy isn’t satisfied just yet. The true freshman sets lofty goals for himself. His personal goal for the season is 1,000 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns, a hefty goal to reach.

The Fresno, California, product is motivated. Worthy said he has a nightly routine with Robinson, his roommate. The two get a piece of paper and write out their stats and goals each night.

“We fold it, write ‘God Bless’ at the top, go to sleep and leave it in,” Worthy said.

Against Rice, Worthy wrote down a goal of 10 catches for 150 yards and two touchdowns. Robinson set a goal aimed at a measly 200 rushing yards. The running back said the two like to “over-set” their goals, even if they may not reach them.

But the overarching theme of Worthy’s whole career thus far has been overachieving. The 6-foot-1, 160-pound wideout from California first played varsity football when he was just 14 years old, weighing only 140 pounds. He ran a 10.55 second 100-yard dash as a sophomore.

“Everybody told me I was small ever since I was growing up,” Worthy said.

He turned that size and speed into a state championship his junior year and a four-star ranking before his senior season was canceled due to the pandemic. Worthy originally signed with Michigan, but he decommitted in April and was released from his letter of intent.

“(It was) just some problems with paperwork,” Worthy said. “I just wanted to get a fresh start somewhere else.”

Nine days later, Worthy announced his commitment to the Longhorns. He said he’s always wanted to play for Sarkisian, who first recruited him and built a relationship with him and his mother as Alabama’s offensive coordinator.

“I just liked the way he utilized (DeVonta Smith),” Worthy said. “He’s a receiver just like me. I liked the way he used him, so I put my trust in that.”

Sarkisian made getting the ball to Worthy in space a point of emphasis for the Longhorn offense, just as he engineered plays to get Smith touches in similar situations at Alabama. Last Saturday, Worthy rewarded him by showing off his blistering speed and slippery style.

In one fourth-and-three play, Worthy turned a short slant into a 31-yard gain, breaking tackle after tackle. In two other plays, the wide receiver received two pop passes while in motion and turned them into chunk plays by turning the corner with elite quickness.

But Worthy isn’t just a speedy, skinny wide receiver. The freshman also has a penchant for finishing plays with impunity and absorbing contact for the extra yard. In his only punt return this season, Worthy made a nice cut to earn 20 yards before trucking a Rice defender out of bounds and jawing with him on the sidelines.

“The thing that I like about him — he’s fast, and he’s not the biggest guy, but he has some physicality about him,” Sarkisan said. “He had a couple times on the sidelines where I think a lot of guys might have stepped out of bounds, but he dropped the shoulder and finished the run. That’s a quality and trait that we try to preach here about contact courage.”

It’s the same toughness that Worthy showed as a 140-pound freshman playing varsity football and a canceled senior season. The same toughness that Worthy showed battling to become the No. 1 wide receiver even after arriving midway through spring camp as a true freshman.

And the same toughness that helped him recover from a slow start to the season after his first loss in nearly three years in the 21-40 loss to Arkansas.

The next obstacle to overcome for Worthy? One thousand yards in his freshman season and whatever sky-high statline sits on a sheet of paper in his room.