Louisiana Tech safety Xavier Woods is getting ready to participate at the NFL Scouting Combine after coming off yet another productive, successful season for the Bulldogs. Woods spoke a little bit about his career, how he’s gotten here and what he expects to come out of this week.
Pete Smith: This season, you were listed at 219 pounds, but measured in at the Shrine Game at 203. What did you actually play at this season?
Xavier Woods: I was never 219. The season I played mostly at 198. At the end, I was around 202-203.
PS: How would you characterize your role in the Bulldogs defense? You were obviously a safety and probably a strong safety but you did a lot more than that.
XW: Well, I wasn’t strong. I was more of a free but just rotated strong. That’s kinda how our defense was. I was the nickel guy. I played down a lot in Cover-3. I was middle of the field a lot. I mean I was basically the quarterback of the defense. I called all the audibles and plays in the back seven.
PS: Looking at your numbers over the past three seasons (149 solo tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, 14 interceptions, 16 pass deflections, six forced fumbles, four sacks), do you think your consistency makes a statement about what type of player you are?
XW: Yes. I mean the player I think I am is a playmaker. Yea, I’m going to be able to turn the ball over. That’s the biggest – that’s the most important thing on the defense. I think I’m pretty good at it and not just interceptions, but fumbles as well, then taking it a step further and having three touchdowns on defense as well. I think I can take it the next step.
PS: The reason it was somewhat believable that you could be 219 pounds is because you play physical. And if you were doing that at 198 pounds, that just says more about how physical a player you are. What kind of message do you think that sends to teammates and opponents?
XW: I think it’s all a mindset. I think tackling and physicality is a mindset. It has nothing to do with – it has a little bit to do with your strength, but even small guys can pack a punch. It has to do with your mindset.
Want to be physical, want to attack guys, want to scare guys, want guys to think twice about coming through a slant route or coming through the middle or coming up the hole against you. I think it’s all a mindset and I possess that mindset.
On our defense, I had to. I had to set the tone for the defense. It was a must that I did that.
PS: How important is your role as a leader on that defense?
XW: I think it was very important. We had a lot of new guys, a lot of transfer guys, a lot of five year seniors, and a couple freshmen and a couple first year starters. So I think I played a big part in the leadership on the defensive side and the team, period, but the leadership on the defensive side was the main focus because I knew my leaders on offense were going to take care of the offense.
PS: You were able to finish your career on a win in the Armed Forces Bowl game against a good Navy team. Obviously, you have experienced a lot of success in your time there, but was that the most meaningful of win of your career?
XW: Looking back on it, I would say yea. I ended my career on a win. That was a big thing for us seniors to win that game. The senior class was the winningest in school history, so we wanted to go out on a W.
PS: What did it mean to get invited to the East-West Shrine Game and what did you want to accomplish during that week?
XW: Getting invited to the Shrine Game was an accomplishment, definitely. It was a goal at the beginning of the season.
Just being there, I wanted to show my versatility. I can play all four positions on the field – free, strong, nickel or corner. I played all four positions in my collegiate career. I just wanted to show that and also, I just wanted to have fun. It was my last time representing the school, representing Louisiana Tech and just being one of the top seniors.
PS: Louisiana Tech has had a nice run of draft picks (Vernon Butler and Kenneth Dixon last year). What do you think that proves with Louisiana Tech and carrying on that tradition?
XW: It shows that no matter where you go to school at. No matter where you put up the numbers, you play, produce, guys gonna look. It doesn’t matter where you play at. You could be at the biggest school in college football or the smallest school in college football. If you’re one of the best, people are going to know that.
PS: What was your reaction when finally get the invite to the NFL Scouting Combine?
XW: Reaction? I can tell you where I was at, but to be honest, I didn’t have a big reaction because the work that I put in, I expected – far from cocky, but just the work I put in, I expected it.
Matter of fact I was in a restaurant when I got the email and I just showed my agent. That was really it to be honest. Then it was time to get to work.
PS: With that in mind, what are your expectations for this week?
XW: My guys, my teammates last year, KD and Vernon, they told me it’s more mental than it is physical. It’s the waking up in the morning, just all the tests, the doctor visits, the Wonderlic test, the interviews. It’s more mental than it is physical.
You gotta get through those things, then once you’re kinda get to the running part, you’re kinda tired, kind of exhausted from all those things. You have to block it out and be ready to compete. I’m ready, I know what to expect, but at the same time, I know it’s going to be tough. Everyone says it’s tough. I’m just ready for whatever at this point.
PS: Where do you think you’ll excel?
XW: I really have a benchmark for every event. I expect my drills to be smooth, crisp. I’m not really worried about the drills part. It’s just the 40 to be honest.
PS: So what do you expect?
XW: It’s gonna be sub 4.4
PS: That’d be pretty good. What is the impression you want teams to come away with after this week from the meetings?
XW: For the interview part, I want teams to know I’m a team guy. My football IQ, I think, is out the roof. And then going to the field, proving to teams that I’m fast. There’s a lot of question marks that I’m fast. I definitely want to shut that down.
On the drills part, show I’m smooth, got great hips, track the ball and catch the ball. At Pro, showing more drill work at safety and nickel.
PS: Is your goal to knock out everything, so you can just do drills at Pro Day and get back to being a football player again?
XW: Yea, that’s definitely the goal. That’s the main goal. I want numbers to only have the position drills to worry about at Pro Day.
PS: Who do you think was the best guy you saw all year? Was it Taywan Taylor of Western Kentucky?
XW: Receiver-wise, I would say yea. Our two receivers (Carlos Henderson and Trent Taylor), I mean, I’ll put them up against anybody. And then quarterback-wise, I would say (Pat) Mahomes has a heckuva arm. He can make any throw I’ve seen. He can make any throw. Running away, across his body, he can do it. On a dime.
PS: Carlos Henderson has gotten a lot of buzz lately. What do you a team is getting with him as a player?
XW: Definitely a deep threat guy, but you also get a man who can make plays with the ball in his hands. That man is dangerous with the ball in his hands. I’ve never seen a guy make people miss or break so many tackles. Never seen a guy like him. He’s a return guy. He had like two or three touchdowns on kick return. He’s really just an all-around guy.
PS: What is your goal when this process is all said and done?
XW: Definitely getting drafted. And then just being able to go on a team and compete at the end of the day. IT doesn’t matter where I’m drafted to or drafted at. I just want to be on a team and play professional football. That’s been my dream since I was old enough to compete.