Xavier Atkins’ smile felt audible through the phone.
Coaches from home-state, “dream school” LSU called to officially extend an eagerly awaited scholarship offer. The significance to the 2024 Jonesboro-Hodge star, one of Louisiana’s top rising junior prospects, extended well beyond football.
“It’s amazing, because my friend (LaJavion Nichols) wanted to play at LSU,” Atkins said. “And he died, which broke my heart. But when they offered, it was like I’m carrying on and living his dream, so it made me feel like I was doing something right.”
“It was a big impact getting this offer,” continued Atkins. “It means a lot not just for me, but for the community and for my friend’s mom, because she knew her son wanted to play at LSU, too.”
A tragic car accident last July claimed the lives of Nichols, fellow friend and teammate, Javious Holden and LaJavion’s older sister, Lajermanique Nichols and left the stunned community to rally together and support one another.
Atkins previously said he felt that impact throughout the fall as he and the Tigers mounted arguably their best season in decades, including a Class 2A semifinals run.
In the process, the previous LSU staff began to take notice of the 6-foot-1, 200-pound linebacker during a school record-setting 219-tackle, all-state breakout performance.
Atkins visited Baton Rouge during the season and continued to build relationships with the new staff throughout the past several months.
“It’s all good,” he said. “Like, when I talk to the recruiters, it won’t even be about football. We’re on a whole other level. When we talk, we keep it real with each other. Like a couple of the recruiters already told me, ‘You’re gonna be playing in that purple and gold. Don’t worry about it.’
“So that’s why I really wasn’t worried about the offer yet, because they told me every time I came down there, ‘We already know you can play. Just trust, and when we offer you, it’s gonna be out of nowhere.’ And he was right. It was out of nowhere today.”
Atkins was finishing a summer school session when he received the FaceTime call from recruiting specialist Sherman Wilson.
“He said, ‘Look who’s on the phone,'” Atkins recounted. “I saw (defensive coordinator) Matt House, and he’s my guy, too. So we were talking and he said, ‘Look, this is what I want to tell you. I’m proud of you keeping up with all your work and all the stuff you have going on.’
“Then he said, ‘We can’t wait to get you back down here, and we’re offering you,’ and that he can’t wait for me to play sideline-to-sideline against Alabama and being one of his linebackers. And when he said he was offering me, I busted out smiling because that’s where I want to play a lot. It was a good feeling, because I’ve been wanting that offer for the longest.”
Atkins said he hadn’t gotten at all impatient awaiting the offer, because of the strong rapport and trust with the coaches, and that actually thought they might wait until after his junior season. A strong camp performance this month only further bolstered his confidence.
“I was telling my little brother and we both just started smiling,” he said. “We were literally just talking about this the other night. After I did well at that camp, it was like, ‘Bro, they’re gonna offer you.’ So when it actually happened, it was crazy. And after we got off the phone, he was the first person I told. I called him. And we just both started smiling and said we were going to talk about it more when we get home. It was just a good feeling.”
Atkins said he plans to make another trip to Baton Rouge during the last week of July, including a pool party at coach Brian Kelly’s house.
“I’m going to be coming back down there a lot,” he assured.
The article written by Jerit Roser was first published in Tiger Details.
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