After snagging three touchdowns in a 38-25 win over Alabama A&M, sensational Florida A&M wide receiver Xavier Smith has been named the Shrine Bowl HBCU Offensive Player of the Week. A member of the Shrine Bowl 1000 Watchlist and one of just four HBCU players on the Walter Payton Award Watchlist, Smith is matching preseason expectations with electric performances for the Rattlers early in the 2022 college football season.
Week 4 Shrine Bowl HBCU Player of the Week: Florida A&M receiver Xavier Smith
Smith earned Shrine Bowl HBCU Offensive Player of the Week honors with an impressive performance that was pivotal to his program’s 12th consecutive home win. After falling behind early to Alabama A&M, the Rattlers bit back, with Smith’s first touchdown — a 20-yard grab from QB Jeremy Moussa — proving a psychological hammer blow to the Bulldogs just before the half.
His second, a pirouetting 10-yard snag in the corner of the end zone, gave Florida A&M their first lead of the night. Smith ensured that there’d be no comeback from the Bulldogs with an acrobatic end zone catch that extended the Rattlers’ lead to 19 points. While Alabama A&M put another score on the board late in the fourth quarter, it wasn’t enough to prevent the Rattlers from racking up their second win of a season that started difficultly but is building momentum with every passing week.
Smith ended the night with three touchdown grabs and 96 receiving yards. In a team full of talent, the fourth-year wide receiver has been a consistent playmaker and leader of the offense. This season, he’s already tallied 30 receptions for 318 yards with a 46-yard long catch against Albany State, a game where he flashed his offensive versatility by rushing for 49 yards on six carries. The 5’10”, 170-pound pass catcher has also returned kicks for the Rattlers during his career.
“Smith had a fantastically productive day in a great matchup against Alabama A&M,” Shrine Bowl Director of College Scouting Shane Coughlin told Pro Football Network. “He’s had an impressive start to the season near the top of all FCS receiving categories”
Being named the Shrine Bowl HBCU Offensive Player of the Week is just the latest honor in an unlikely football journey for the Florida A&M wide receiver. Smith was working at Amazon when he walked on for the Rattlers. Four years later, he’s one of the top receivers at the FCS level, with his eyes firmly fixed on making it to the NFL. His performance in earning Shrine Bowl HBCU Offensive Player of the Week honors showcased some of his alluring skillset that could earn him attention in the 2023 NFL Draft.
According to Coughlin, Smith has been successful so far this season “using his sharp change of direction and natural adjustments to win both underneath and over the top of defenders.” However, he showcased additional elements to his game in the win over Alabama A&M.
“On previous film he’s shown the elusiveness and burst in space but this week we saw his value on deeper patterns as well as in the red zone. He’s got sudden breaks and is showing improved control in his transitions.”
As a true freshman in 2018, Smith led the Rattlers with 727 receiving yards — a mark that ranked second in the conference — and earned All-MEAC Second Team accolades. One year later, the Haines City native who was a former slotback for Ridge High School, surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his college football career. The Florida A&M wide receiver added 11 touchdowns to his résumé in 2019 while establishing himself as a big play threat with 15.1 yards per catch.
The disruption of the 2020 season may have slowed Smith’s ascension to stardom a little, but it couldn’t stop it completely. As the Rattlers returned to the field in 2021, their star wide receiver was once again leading the way. Despite a reduction in targets, Smith still tallied over 700 yards in his third campaign while impressing against FBS opponent USF in a game that accounted for almost a quarter (15 catches) of his total receptions for the season.
Smith is no stranger to accolades. Heading into the 2022 college football season, he ranked in the FCS top-10 for career receptions, receptions per game, and receiving yards per game. The Florida A&M receiver has earned All-Conference honors multiple times and was named a Black College All-American while earning HERO Sports Sophomore All-American honors in 2019.
Now, he can add Shrine Bowl HBCU Offensive Player of the Week to that list.