xavier gaines

Marshall’s Xavier Gaines is upended after a long gain against Boise State.

Xavier Gaines has picked up a nickname.

And it couldn’t be more appropriate.

Call him the “X-Factor.”

That’s certainly what the 6-foot-3, 221-pound redshirt junior has become during Marshall University’s 2019 football season.

Take the Herd’s 14-7 loss at Boise State, for example.

Gaines, who is listed as a tight end, was 0 for 1 passing as a quarterback, carried twice for 14 yards as a quarterback and running back, while also catching three passes for a team-leading 26 yards as a tight end and wide receiver.

That’s four different positions.

“Actually five,” corrected Gaines politely. “I played slot receiver, too.”

See what I mean?

The “X-Factor.”

“It’s a lot of fun just to showcase your athleticism and showcase what you can do,” said Gaines. “I mean, going back to my old roots and going to quarterback and running the zone read, that’s nice.

“Just catching the ball in the open field ... doing what you want to do and doing what you love to do. I’m getting in open space and just making plays. It’s nice, it’s nice to do.”

It’s a dream-come-true scenario for a versatile player who literally can do it all because he is blessed with such overwhelming athleticism.

“I mean, it is nice to get opportunities and do ... just to be you,” said the native of Frostproof, Florida. “I like it to be honest. Who wouldn’t like the opportunity to get the ball? It’s great, it’s great.

“But I’ve just got to make the most of my plays. When you get those opportunities you’ve got to make the most of them and make plays ... just stay the course.”

It makes for an interesting progression. The more success Gaines has in different roles, the more touches he will get as the “X-Factor.”

“Yes sir, absolutely,” he said. “Nothing wrong with playing five different positions and seeing how many times you can get the ball in open space.”

Imagine defensive coordinators having to game-plan for this “X-Factor.” That leads us to Marshall’s game against longtime rival Ohio University at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in Joan C. Edwards Stadium. It will be Bobcats defensive coordinator Ron Collins’ job to figure out where No. 11 is going to line up.

“Absolutely,” said Gaines. “Be in a different position here. You be in a tight end. You be in a wing. You be in the slot. You be at quarterback. It’s hard. It’s difficult for defensive coordinators and the defenses to go against that.

“Because you don’t know where I am. It’s nice for me.”

That’s because it fits. Being the “X-Factor” fits Gaines’ skill set as well as his athleticism set.

“Coming here they listed me as an ‘Athlete,’ ” he explained. “Then, when I got here, Doc [MU head coach Doc Holliday] asked me what position I wanted to play and I wanted to be a quarterback. That’s what I was at heart.”

But it wasn’t working out.

“Chase [Litton] was the starting quarterback,” said Gaines. “He was wondering how I could get on the field and make plays. So, he asked me, ‘Do you want to go to tight end or do you want to stay at quarterback? Make that move. The sky’s the limit.’ And I did that. I made that move.

“I put in the work and just did my job and, now, it’s paying the dues. I appreciate it.”

Let’s just say Xavier Gaines is … X-static.