By Mark Schlabach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 30, 2005
BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 29 -- When Georgia Tech quarterback Reggie Ball dropped back to throw during the third quarter of last Saturday's game at Virginia Tech, Hokies Coach Frank Beamer barely had time to turn his head and see linebacker Xavier Adibi step in front of receiver Calvin Johnson and intercept the pass.
"And it didn't take him long to get to the end zone," Beamer said.
Once Adibi leaped two Georgia Tech players to score his first career touchdown in the Hokies' 51-7 victory over the Yellow Jackets, it didn't take long for safety D.J. Parker and defensive end Chris Ellis to find him in the end zone.
The trio grew up in the Tidewater region of southeast Virginia, where college football players seem to be as abundant as the crabs and oysters fishermen have been pulling out of the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay for decades.
And if Parker and Ellis are correct, Adibi could be as good as any player the fertile area has ever produced. Adibi, a sophomore from Hampton, was named freshman all-American by the Sporting News last season, despite playing only seven games. He tore a tendon in his right biceps muscle during the 2004 season opener against Southern California and underwent surgery the following week.
Facing weeks of rehabilitation, Adibi was expected to miss the rest of his redshirt freshman season. But he returned soon enough to play in the Hokies' last six games and helped them win the ACC in their first season in the league. When leading tackler Mikal Baaqee graduated, Adibi moved into the starting inside spot between senior James Anderson and sophomore Vince Hall.
"He's been good," Beamer said of Adibi. "He's got everything it takes. He's tougher than heck and he's nasty on the football field. He's a nice person off the field, but to be a great player, you've got to have that nasty attitude and he's got it."
Ellis, who played at Bethel High in Hampton and has known Adibi since they were 8, says Adibi might be the best athlete among the group.
"He was a superior athlete in the rec league. He was a superior athlete in high school. And he'll be a superior athlete here," Ellis said. "You know how pilots like to fly and doctors like to save people's lives? Well, Xavier likes to play football."
Adibi, 6 feet 2 and 224 pounds, has always been one of the fastest, strongest and smartest players on the football field. His father, Abiodun Adibi, immigrated to the United States from Nigeria, played soccer at Oklahoma State and is now a biochemistry professor at Hampton University. His mother, Leanne Adibi, is taller than her husband and also is athletic.
Adibi, who turns 21 next month, first started playing football because his older brother was playing the sport. Nathaniel Adibi was a starting defensive end for the Hokies two years ago and was a fifth-round selection of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2004 NFL draft. He is currently on injured reserve for the Indianapolis Colts.
"I didn't even like football at first," Adibi said. "I just stuck with it because my brother played. I was a basketball guy."
But once Adibi learned to like football, it didn't take him long to excel at the sport. He helped lead Phoebus High to consecutive Group AAA state championships and was named the top player in Virginia by most recruiting services.
"I've known Xavier since sixth or seventh grade, and you don't find many athletes like him," Parker said. "He's a bookworm. He's a really bright kid who studies a lot of film. He just loves playing football."