Will Blackmon remembers the first time he ever laid eyes on Xavier Truss.
A tall, chubby kid with a baby face and a big grin stood on the field at Bishop Hendricken High School, ready to participate in Blackmon’s annual free summer camp for youth. Truss towered over the campers and the coaching staff, including Blackmon the former NFL veteran and Boston College Hall of Famer. Truss was just 12 years-old.
“I remember Xavier being the biggest little kid at our camp. Usually kids who are that big at that age aren’t coordinated, but he not only was the biggest kid, but he was super athletic! Immediately I knew he was going to be legit,” said Blackmon, the former Hendricken All American.
That same kid who turned heads as a pre-teen at the Blackmon’s youth camp is now a 20-year-old National Champion. The 6-foot-7, 320-plus pound University of Georgia offensive lineman was part of the No. 3 Bulldogs stunning upset of No. 1 Alabama in the 2022 National Collegiate Football Championship, The win, in front of nearly 70,000 screaming fans at Lucas Oil Stadium. marked Georgia’s first national championship in 41 years.
“It’s just amazing,” said Truss, a red-shirt sophomore.
What’s equally as amazing is that with the Bulldogs’ win, Truss became the first Rhode Islander to play in and win a National Collegiate Football Championship.
Truss had no idea he had just made Rhode Island history.
“I didn’t know I was the first Rhode Islander (to win a national college football championship). Someone told me that right after the game ,” said Truss. “I love representing Rhode Island. You make sure you put on for your home state…it’s important that I do that.”
Truss’ family members and girlfriend were among the screaming fans in the stands witnessing history.
“It was great to have everyone who helped me get to where I am now there with me,” said Truss. “Having them there was so special.”
“At one point Xavier came to the sideline and found us in the stands. I have no idea how he can find us in a crowd of 70,000 people, but he always does. He had the cigar in his mouth with the biggest smile on his face and just threw his hands up making the heart symbol,” said Truss’ mom, Gina Meschino Truss.
“I don’t care how big he is, all I saw was my little boy, as proud of himself as he could be. “What most people don’t see is how it’s been a tough couple years for him. The transition of being 1,000 miles away, then Covid and the reality of what SEC college football is all about. I think he finally realizes that he belongs there, he has put the work in and it doesn’t matter how many minutes he gets on that field in the game, he is part of a bigger picture. He has a national championship title on his portfolio to prove it. “
The road from 2,000 seat Dennis P. Hayden field to 93,000 seat Sanford Stadium has not been easy. Truss’ permanent grin doesn’t reveal the challenges has faced since arriving at college’s football’s biggest stage.
He was a high school star. An All-Stater who was selected to the 2019 All-America Bowl and a three-time state champion in indoor track and field. None of that mattered when he arrived in Athens. He was no longer the best of the best.. He is surrounded by the best of the best who came from far bigger programs than Hendricken..
“It’s hard coming from high school everyone expects to be the best of the best and then you get here and it’s a different story. It’s really easy to be hard on yourself. Patience is key,” said Truss.
The support from his family was key.
“I made sure I was in touch with my family back home every day. When I wasn’t texting them, I was calling them …every day,” said Truss.
Of course, Truss said, frequent care packages from his mom – that include coffee milk – helped tremendously.
“During Covid I overnighted prosciutto and deconstructed lobster salad to him and we FaceTimed while he made it. I have traveled (to Athens) )with a big batch of sausage and peppers, Easter pies, red strip pizza, spinach pies and frozen Hood EggNog in my carry on. The egg nog did not thaw very well but I tried,” said Gina.
Y’all leave me alone man😭😭 I’m trying https://t.co/kg4xntfekb
— Xavier Truss (@xtruss94) January 12, 2022
With the exception of occasional treats from his mom, Truss worked with a team nutritionist, drastically changed his eating habits and dropped significant weight. He focused on what he could control – his body and mind – and absorbed everything he could while learning to be patient from the sidelines.
“When you’re sitting behind someone, you learn from them. You don’t envy them and wish it was you…you just make sure you’re ready to take that position. That’s something coaches stress. Be prepared to play. I may not have been one of the best starting five, but I was going to make sure I was the best sixth to go in. You have to be patient,” said Truss.
Truss credits another former Hendricken star – Indianapolis Colts’ Kwity Paye – for helping him get through some of the difficult times,
“Kwity has helped a lot,” said Truss. “He is always so supportive.”
In turn, Paye makes sure he checks in on another former Hendricken star Jason Onye, who is now a freshman at Notre Dame.
“I know what it’s like being a freshman, 1,000 miles from home and not knowing anyone,” said Truss. “I know how challenging that can be and how homesick you can get.”
He shares the lessons he has learned as part of the Bulldog program with Onye.
“I tell him to try to be patient. As long as you’re grinding to be the best player, you’re going to play when your time comes.”
Truss returned home to Rhode Island a few weeks ago. He stopped by his alma mater and spent some time with Hendricken Coach Keith Croft.
“I am so proud of Xavier. You can see and feel the maturation in him,” said Hendricken football coach Keith Croft. “He’s a great ambassador to our program as well as any student athlete that understands the correlation between hard work and patience.”
Truss wavered from his diet while he was home, ate (six) New York System wieners, a lobster roll and his mom’s homemade sausage and peppers – his favorite.
SIGNED ✅ #ATD
Welcome to the family, @xtruss94 ! #GoDawgs #NewBreed19 pic.twitter.com/TGU7wmLjpC
— Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) December 19, 2018
After a quick visit home, he’s back back to work in Athens.
A little more than a month has passed since Truss fumbled with a cigar that caught the attention of SportsCenter and flooded social media.
“The coaches have already told us to forget about it (the national championship) . That’s behind us now…time to get back to work,” said Truss.
A business real estate major, he is taking one day at a time. Right now he focuses on getting through his 12 hour-plus days that are filled with classes, workouts, treatment, tutoring and academic support.
“It’s back to the grind for sure,” said Truss. “As soon as we got back we had about a week and half off and right back into workouts the coaching staff made a point to make sure we know that the (championship) game is behind us. We were in the moment for a while. It was great to bring that championship back to the university. That was the coolest thing. It’s been so long since we’ve won and it was great to bring it back to the die hard fans. But now we are right back at it.”