After shaking hands, hugging, bumping or exchanging high-fives with nearly everyone in attendance in the Bishop Hendricken auditorium, Xavier Truss took his seat on the stage. When the 6’7, 325 pound offensive lineman was called up to podium and put on his 2019 All-American jersey, he tried his hardest to keep a straight face and look tough – but Truss couldn’t hold back flashing a bright, big smile.
Who could blame him? Truss had just been officially honored as an All-American and presented his All-American jersey in front of his family, friends, teachers and Hendricken teammates. The number one ranked football player in Rhode Island and University of Georgia commit, is one of just 100 players throughout the country to be selected to play in the 2019 All-American Bowl – the most prestigious high school sporting event held annually. The All-American Bowl, to be held Jan. 5 in San Antonio, Tx, attracts 35,000 spectators and draws more 4.3 million viewers to its live national broadcast on NBC.
“This is an amazing opportunity for me and I hope I can make you all proud come January,” Truss said to the crowd. “I can’t wait to get down there in January, strap on my helmet and bust some heads.”
Images of Reggie Bush, Odell Beckham Jr. and other NFL stars who once played in the All-American Bowl were set up as the backdrop behind the podium where Truss stood beaming.
“It’s crazy to think that my name could be among some of these names who are NFL stars and some are legends now..it’s crazy,” said Truss.
When some notables who had played in the All American Bowl in the past were announced during the ceremony there was one in particular who had special meaning to those in attendance, especially to Truss.
RI native Will Blackmon, a former All-American at Bishop Hendricken, who went on to excel at Boston College and have a stellar 11 year NFL career, played in the All American Bowl.
Blackmon and Truss met a few years ago at the inaugural Will Blackmon Football Camp. Blackmon, who resides in California, returns each summer to his home state to host a free camp for youth as his way to give to the community. Held at his alma mater, the camp draws over 200 youth annually to the Hendricken field.
“I love talking to Will Blackmon,” said Truss. “Knowing we both came from Hendricken and little old Rhody, it’s a great honor.”
Blackmon remembers exactly when he saw Truss for the first time..
“He was at our first camp. I remember thinking who is this big kid? No way is he 13… ,” recalled Blackmon. “He was huge. What was so impressive was his athletic ability for his size. He was so big and he could move. I was his coach in his 7-on-7 that day. He was so athletic and did a great job. I don’t think we lost a game.”
Blackmon isn’t surprised at Truss’ success.
“I am not shocked at all. You could see his talent right away at our camp. It’s cool that everyone noticed him now,” said Blackmon.
The two still keep in touch.
“I send him a reminder once in a while….just to stay on track, stay focused. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype,” said Blackmon.
“No question I am happy for him,” added Blackmon, regarding Truss’ selection to the All-American Bowl. “I don’t have advice except to go out and have fun. He’s already committed to Georgia. The pressure is off. Keep developing relationships and friends and have fun. I’m still in touch with five guys I met at that game.”
Like Blackmon and Truss’ former Hendricken’s former teammate Kwity Paye, who played in the Under Armour All-American Bowl and is now playing at Michigan, Truss is hoping the national exposure he is getting will pave the way for other players from Rhode Island.
“Kwity did that for me. I am hoping to do that for someone else…no question,” said Truss. “Rhode Island (athletes) get overlooked. Rhody can ball.”
Before he heads out to San Antonio, Truss and the unbeaten Hawks will wrap up the regular season in a few weeks and then head to the postseason. The goal is to finish his high school career with a Super Bowl title. Then Truss will focus on preparing himself for the All-American Bowl.
“I’ll think of it (All-American Bowl) more as a first game of college,” said Truss. “It’s like an all star game. A lot of the players in that game are definitely college ready. I think it’s going to be my first taste of what Georgia is going to be like.”