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Furman Graduate & WWE Superstar Xavier Woods Inspires The Youth For Black History Month
2/19/2014 1:53:56 PM

Xavier Woods (courtesy of World Wrestling Entertainment)
By Damion Smalls

To most people, the perception of professional athletes in our society usually does not include the human element they maintain. They are often seen as larger than life figures, oblivious to the world us non-celebrities live in as if somehow they were created in a lab and then promptly spat out for the world to judge. That disconnect can manifest an a sense of bemusement of us common folk, as we may look up at these stars as the luckiest people on the planet.

And while it is true that some are lucky, others have went above and beyond to deserve to be recognized for their tremendous efforts and causes. Xavier Woods is a type of person described in the latter. Now an World Wrestling Entertainment performer, Woods (real name Austin Watson), at the age of 27, has already set a brilliant example for young Black men and women by having a voracious appetite for accomplishment. His seemingly quick path which led to him realizing his dreams from a wrestling fan to working for the largest wrestling promotion in the world was not given to him, but instead taken by him with his initiative and drive for success. Xavier Woods has laid the foundation to a prolific career in multiple fields, and he is having the time of his life doing so.

Both an athlete and scholar, Woods attended and graduated Furman University. He earned two degrees, bachelor of arts in psychology and philosophy, in his time at college. Woods described the campus as "one of the most beautiful in the country" and had many good memories as a Paladin.

He began his wrestling career while studying at Furman. He has not neglected his studies in the slightest as he said that he intends to add Ph. D to his list of accolades "before he turns 30" .

Woods currently is continuing his education at Walden University and working on his dissertation. His work schedule with the WWE keeps him on the road for some 200 days a year but Woods looks forward to pushing himself even further. His passion in education is based in his focus on children with autism; he seeks to spread awareness for the disorder whenever possible. Woods said that his goal after retiring from wrestling is using his degrees to work with austim-affected youth. His prowess in the squared circle and in the classroom has led him to a future where he controls his own destiny prosperity, a luxury that few Black athletes enjoy.

Xavier pointed to his family when I asked him about about what Black History Month meant to him. He told me that they helped him become aware of and to respect the history of his forefathers, which guided him on his journey as a barrier-breaking renaissance man. His family emphasized the struggle that Blacks have faced in the United States so he never forgets where he came from, no matter what.

Woods stated that veteran WWE performers such as Mark Henry and Booker T have been essential in their advice to him with their their stories of being young and Black in an industry were they are a rare breed. His encounter with legendary Black wrestler, Flash Funk, also aided him greatly. He spoke highly of Funk and stressed how important and thrilling it was for him that it was to meet his idol. While spanning the globe and getting the chance to work with people that he admired in his youth, Woods keeps the proper perspective on the task at hand.

Making his television debut with the WWE last fall, Xavier's introduction was been well-received. Some of his supporters question if he could featured even more but his success so far has been more than promising.

His relatively small statue (a shade under six feet tall & a hitting the scales at little more than 200 pounds) compared to his peers has only driven him to work harder than ever. Being such a willing orator with a mind has helped his cause considerably.

Having spent his childhood in both California and Georgia helped Woods in his future career on the road in the WWE. He credits his upbringing for allowing him to adjust on the fly and relate to people of different backgrounds. He employs his experiences to constant travel to stay ground in reality. Woods said that usually doesn't experience culture shock but a trip to Japan blew him away.

As many kids growing up in the 1990's can attest, Japanese influence on the West has impacted his life. A fan of Sonic the Hedgehog, Power Rangers, and Dragon Ball, he has incorporated his real life interests in to the Xavier Woods persona and it has gone over well so far. He has launched a 'one of us' type of character that the fans can relate to. This decision has helped him gain popularity on social media even from non-WWE fans.

An avid gamer, he said that spent his formative years playing games like "Street Fighter and Soul Calibur with friends" in when not hitting the books. Woods has recently been using his hyperactive personality and love of games to his advantage by pushing for his own show on the soon-to-premiere WWE Network, a groundbreaking video streaming service which launches on February 24.

The show, titled 'Xavier Woods WWE 2K14 World Tour', would feature him traveling to various electronic stores around the world and competing against fans on the 'WWE 2K14' video game. Players who defeat him would win a chance to enter a tournament to be crowned champion at the company's flagship event, Wrestlemania. Response from the fans on his idea has be been popular so far but it remains to be seen if the show will come to fruition. Even so, Woods remains upbeat on his future prospects with the company, as well he should.

Woods seemed excited when I brought up the fact the WWE was coming to the Charleston area later this month. The show, a 'WWE Road to Wrestlemania' live event, will be held at the North Charleston Coliseum on Friday, February 28 and starts at 7:30 pm. He has a lot of love for the fans and is encouraging them to show up in huge numbers when he comes to town. Woods implored that fans of all ages would have a good time at event, especially if they have never been to one. I went to my first event the last time the WWE was in Charleston this past June and I agree. It was a place where people of all genders, races, and creeds came together and cheered for their favorite superstars and left satisfied. It is worth the price of admission no doubt. Most likely, he will be joining in the ring with his partner and fellow southern Black wrestler, R-Truth, at the show. Tickets are still available.

Talking with Xavier left me with a huge sense of empathy. He was very down to earth, engaging, and optimistic. He is hungry to earn himself even more recognition as regular performer on one of the most popular brands of entertainment in our culture. He has not lost his sense of self or let his accomplishments go to his head. Being a strong and positive role model for the Black youth has reaffirmed his goals. And rather than resting on his laurels and bragging about what he has done with his life, Woods aspires to invigorate the people while advancing the discussion of autism awareness.

At the same time, be the life of party. His story, although yet ongoing, is one that can a Black child can absorb and feel as if they can 'make it' too if they put their minds to it. It won't be as easy as Woods has made it look, but with the right mindset, people can attain more than what our society can indicate. Xavier Woods is living proof of that.

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