Notre Dame football star goes from the X Man to the X Factor

When most people think of Notre Dame football in the Marcus Freeman Era they think of guys like Sam Hartman, Michael Mayer, and more. But there is one player that before last year, flew under the radar like never before.

University of Southern California v University of Notre Dame
University of Southern California v University of Notre Dame / Michael Miller/ISI Photos/GettyImages
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Xavier Watts came to the Irish as a 4 star, 6'1 WR from Omaha, Nebraska. Started off wearing #82, but wasn't getting much burn as a WR with an already stacked receiver room. A committee that consisted of Avery Davis, Braden Lenzy, Lorenzo Styles, Kevin Austin, and Lawrence Keys. Watts and 5-star Jordan Johnson both rode the pine that season, as Brian Kelly refused to play freshmen at skill positions.

Why did Xavier Watts switch positions for Notre Dame football?

Looking for a change, that following spring Watts made the move to running back. But that didn't last long as the RB room was even bigger. It consisted of now superstar Rams RB Kyren Williams, Virginia Cavalier Chris Tyree, and Ole Miss Rebel Logan Diggs. After switching once again, this time to safety, Watts sat behind now NFL superstar safety for the Ravens Kyle Hamilton.

The growth stage

In 2021, Xavier Watts recorded a total of 15 tackles in the opportunities he was in the game. Clearly the sophomore had lots of room for improvement. The following year in 2022, he stepped up his game with 39 total tackles and 1 sack. Not too bad for his first season starting. But he still had lots of room for improvement. After all, freshman Benjamin Morrison established himself as a top 5 corner.

X-Man meets X-Factor

The 2023 season for the Irish was known for a few things. A mediocre 10 win season for Coach Freeman in his 2nd full season, the evolution of Audric Estime, but none come close to the breakout of Xavier Watts. Throughout the season, he had some effective games. Most notably the games against NC State and Duke where he recorded his first and second career college interception. But none was more memorable than when the hated USC Trojans rolled into South Bend...

The reigning heisman Caleb Williams looked more like Kedon Solvis when he took on the Irish on this fateful October night. Watts recorded 7 tackles, 2 picks and a scoop and score. And just like that, the X Factor was born. He would get 3 more INTs on the season against Pittsburgh and Clemson. Agent 0 finished the season with 52 tackles, 1 forced fumble, and SEVEN interceptions.

One last ride for the Nagurski winner

Shortly after winning the Nagurski award, Xavier Watts said that he will be returning to South Bend for his senior year. With this likely being Benjamin Morrison's and Watts final year, this ND secondary is due for a big season. As the Irish prepare for what might be their best chance at a national title, it will come down to the anchor of the offense in Riley Leonard but more Benjamin Morrison and the X-Man.