Xavier Adibi (Getty Images)
With the 118th overall pick in April’s draft, the Texans selected a player who by all accounts should have gone a lot higher. Slated by many to be drafted in the mid to late second round, taking Virginia Tech’s Xavier Adibi’s in the middle of round four might prove to be one of the biggest steals of the 2008 NFL Draft.
Growing up in southeast Virginia, it was a known fact that Xavier Adibi was a superior athlete. He’s a hard-hitting linebacker with soft hands and quick feet. Athletic ability aside, Xavier Adibi is highly regarded for his intelligence, work ethic, and team first attitude.
As a three-year starter, Adibi was a field general who helped lead Virginia Tech’s vaunted “Lunch Pail Defense” to national prominence. The Hokies boasted the nation’s top defense in 2005 and 2006, while finishing in fifth in 2007. Adibi's play in Bud Foster's aggressive defense improved year by year. Adibi finished his career with 291 total tackles, but what is also notable was how many plays he made behind the line of scrimmage. From his linebacker position, he amassed 30 tackles for a loss with 11 quarterback sacks. He also forced four fumbles and hauled in eight interceptions. His numbers demonstrate an ability to get after the quarterback, stuff the run, and make plays on the ball.
Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster has seen plenty of talented players in his twenty-one seasons at Virginia Tech. So when he says that Adibi might be the most athletic linebacker he has ever coached, that says plenty. "Xavier might be the fastest guy and the most athletic linebacker I've had the opportunity to coach," said Coach Foster, "His first asset is he's got great speed. Plus, he's physical. He's a complete linebacker. On top of all that, he has a good football IQ and will be a great team guy."
Abibi at VT (AP Photo/Don Petersen)
The fact that he holds Xavier Adibi in such high regards should be an indication of the level of talent the Texans were able to snag in the fourth round, but the praise doesn’t end there. Coach Frank Beamer as he spoke about the linebacker's on the field demeanor, "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."
Childhood friend and college teammate D.J. Parker said, "I've known Xavier since sixth or seventh grade, and you don't find many athletes like him. He's a bookworm. He's a really bright kid who studies a lot of film. He just loves playing football."
The combination of leadership ability, high football IQ, and tremendous work ethic makes Adibi one of the draft's best values. Another linebacker who is built from a similar mold as Adibi is the Chiefs' Donnie Edwards. They both sport a sleeker physique for a linebacker; both had distinguished collegiate careers; and both were taken in the fourth round. Edwards has had a stellar career, being one of only nine defensive players to be apart of the official 20/20 club (Sacks/Interceptions over a career). Adibi’s breakneck style of play coupled with his natural ability could some day land him among the ranks of that exclusive club.
Adibi, noted for his leadership abilities, was voted the team MVP by his teammates. In a blog post announcing the 2007 team awards, Bud Foster said, "You don't see a lot of defensive guys get the team MVP award. Usually this award goes to a running back or someone like that. But this is such an honor considering everything we accomplished defensively this past year. I am very happy for him."
Play after play, the Lunch Pail Defense rallied around Xavier, lifted by his performance. This ability to spur his teammates on with his own play doesn't always show up in the box score and it wasn’t something that was measured at the combine. It’s the intangible force that makes such an impact, it’s the invisible energy that fuels a team. It is what experts call the X-Factor.