X Marks The Spot: Far West Valley Features Rising Prospect

All football coaches will agree you can never have enough excellent athletes on the field.

Verrado High School’s Derek Wahlstrom is following the same philosophy out in Buckeye with talented senior-to-be Xavier James.

The 6’2, 180-pounder who burst onto the scene last year at wide receiver will be lining up outside on defense this fall as well as the Vipers look to build on their 9-2 2014 campaign and prove they belong mentioned among annual west Valley heavyweights such as Centennial, Desert Edge, Millennium and others.

“He’s a young man who’s really dedicated himself in the weight room,” VHS’s head coach Wahlstrom told Sports360AZ.com. “He’s really coming on as a student-athlete. We’re definitely going to lean on him to make plays for us in a number of ways.”

Shouldn’t be a problem for James, who according to Wahlstrom, scored a touchdown last season every four times he touched the ball. 

He’s been working to sharpen his skills during the Vipers’ off-season practices which recently wrapped up at the pristine nine-year school just a few miles north of I-10 west.

“Spring ball [went] well,” he explained to Sports360AZ.com. “The first couple practices I had to catch on [to the cornerbacks’ responsibilities]. Cornerback is really fun. I enjoy playing corner.”

James said he prefers being the chased instead of the chaser but has been more than willing to learn the new position and the intricacies of the secondary.

Interest in the smooth athlete has intensified after an impressive performance at the Nike Spark Combine. James, who has been clocked in the mid-four’s in the 40-yard dash, already has an offer from the University of Montana and figures to garner more in his senior season. He’s been training with Verrado coaches three days a week and catching 200 balls with teammates in-between those sessions.

He and the Vipers’ focus is clear as they ramp up towards the fall.

“Last year was our best year at 9-2,” he said. “We still have some work to do.”

Look for the selfless James to be leading Verrado by example.

He doesn’t know any other way.